Bill Gates, American philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, says fixing Nigerian health sector is more important now than invest too much on the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines.
Gates said this while responding to a question posed by The PUNCH during an interview with select African journalists on Tuesday.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, had in December informed the Senate that Nigeria would require over N400bn to vaccinate 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population at $8 per vaccine.
“When asked if it was appropriate for Nigeria to spend such an enormous amount of money on the acquisition of vaccines in the midst of other health sector problems, Gates said,
“There is no question that the effect of bringing money into the health system, particularly the primary health system, would be very high in terms of saving the lives of children, and you are absolutely right.
“Nigeria should not divert the very limited money that it has for health into trying to pay a high price for COVID vaccines.”
Gates said Nigeria could also rely largely on groups like GAVI the Vaccine Alliance for COVID-19 vaccines.
He concluded that investing in the primary health sector would increase coverage and boost the reaction of Nigeria to other diseases.
The philanthropist added, “The key thing would be, Nigeria is still GAVI eligible and so for a lot of those vaccines, they will come through this GAVI facility that we raise money for and health in Nigeria is generally underfunded.
“So, I am an advocate for the government to have more resources and prioritise health. Obviously, I am not a voter in Nigeria so Nigeria can decide that independently. My advice is (that) the primary health care system is what is super important.”
When asked if his foundation would be helping Nigeria in developing COVID-19 vaccines, Gates said such a move would involve a five-year plan.