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Government receive $9.2m grants from Canada

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By Usman Oladimeji

This grant supports the healthcare system's efforts of vaccination.

To strengthen Nigeria’s healthcare system, the Federal Government has, in recent times, received a grant of $9,261,920 from the Canadian government to aid the expansion of access to COVID-19 vaccination for the country’s most at-risk populations. During the launch of the Canada Global Initiative for Vaccine grant in Abuja, the High Commissioner of Canada to Nigeria, Jamie Christoff remarked that the project further depicts Canada’s long-standing institutional partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) to aid Nigeria in its efforts to combat disease and safeguard its most vulnerable citizens.

Christoff noted that regardless that COVID-19 is no longer a global emergency, it remains crucial to strengthen public health systems in pursuit of an all-encompassing and durable recovery. He emphasized the necessity of coordinating these actions internationally with set up vaccination and care programmes. For instance, this can support the healthcare system’s efforts to vaccinate an increasing number of people, including children who may have missed out on standard immunisations during the pandemic. He noted that the project will improve information management and disease surveillance data, including gender-responsive data, through the inclusion of COVID-19 into the country’s health information systems.

Indication for increased vaccination rates in high-risk communities.

According to him, the WHO project, Under CanGIVE, would be executed across seven countries, with Nigeria receiving the largest share ($9 million Canadian Dollars). He mentioned that Nigeria was also amongst the first countries to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses from Canada in September of 2021, as he expressed his pleasure to be able to continue Canada’s support to Nigeria with this latest project. Speaking, Dr. Walter Mulombo, WHO Country Representative Office in Nigeria touted the timing of the grant, saying it will increase vaccination rates in high-risk communities.

Currently, he said, 14 states are achieving less than 50% vaccination coverage of their supposed population, and there are still vulnerable populations that are not adequately covered. Particularly vulnerable are those who are 50 and older, those who have several chronic conditions, healthcare workers, those who live in regions with limited access to humanitarian aid and security, and pregnant women. Mulombo explained that the WHO Director General’s statement that COVID-19 is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concerns indicates a pivotal moment in the pandemic situation.

All potentially eligible groups are covered with no one left out.

While considerable progress has been made, the statement does not mean that COVID-19 is no longer a global or national health risk or that infection is no longer a major concern, as instances are still being recorded in numerous countries. Mulombo says it’s imperative to continue to provide care and protection by rounding up the first series of the COVID-19 immunization, and he urges those who have already done so to keep up with the booster dosage plan.

Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, reported that, as of March 20, 2021, 75% of the target population of individuals aged 18 and above in Nigeria had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Using a phased approach, he said, the programme has covered all potentially eligible groups and left no one out. Nigeria was ahead of the curve when it came to integrating primary healthcare services like COVID-19 vaccination with an electronic registry, he added.

Low-performing states are the focus of this grant.

The “One Country, One Team, One Plan, One Budget” strategy, as described by Dr. Shuaib, demonstrates dedication to incorporating lessons acquired during and post-pandemic into the healthcare system. In various states, immunization rates for the primary series are lower than 70%, and booster shots account for just about 20% of all immunisations. Hence, low-performing states are the focus of this grant, with an eye towards reaching high-priority populations. It was reported that the WHO would be responsible for implementing the grant in states including Ondo, Rivers, Kogi, Delta, Ebonyi, Lagos, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Benue, Ogun, Katsina, Taraba, Anambra, Kebbi, and Edo.

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