Meningitis High cost preventing Nigerians from accessing vaccine

Nigerians who are eager to protect themselves against the deadly disease have said that the cost of procuring the vaccine is prohibitive.

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The free healthcare covers paediatrics, major and minor surgical operations, eye care (surgeries and distribution of free glasses), among others. play

The free healthcare covers paediatrics, major and minor surgical operations, eye care (surgeries and distribution of free glasses), among others.

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The Federal Government’s efforts to check the further spread of the Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis in the country may be marred by high cost of dispensing the vaccine in public and private health institutions.

Nigerians who are eager to protect themselves against the deadly disease have said that the cost of procuring the vaccine is prohibitive.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the recent outbreak of the disease, especially in the northern parts of the country has claimed over 813 lives.

A check by NAN in some of the public and private institutions shows that where the vaccine is available, it is administered on those who craved for it at a cost between N11,300 and N13,000.

The health facilities visited include Akerele Primary Health Centre, EKO Hospital, Havana Hospital, Maternal and Childcare Centre (MCC) and Randle General Hospital, all in Surulere.

Others are the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Ebute-Meta, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba and Gbagada General Hospital, Gbagada.

At the EKO and Havana Hospitals, two major private hospitals in Surulere, the vaccine was available at the cost of between N11,500 and N13,000 respectively.

In some government-owned hospital in the economic capital of the nation, it costs between N2,500 and N7,150.

A patient at the Havana Hospital, Mrs Uche Ifeajuna, said that the vaccine was a necessity to prevent meningitis, especially for those who frequently travelled to the northern part of the country.

She said: “I had to pay the N13,000 to be protected from the disease; however, this is because I can afford it.

“But, what happens to those at grassroots who cannot afford private hospitals and they need to get the vaccine?

“It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that it provides the vaccine.

“The vaccine should be made available and accessible, especially at the Primary Health Centres (PHCs),’’ she said.

At the Federal Medical Center, Ebute-Meta, the vaccine was readily available for those who wanted to take preventive measures against meningitis at a cost of N2, 500 for a shot.

During the visit to the facility, the majority of patients waiting to take the shot were members of the National Youth Service Corps programme posted to northern part of Nigeria.

A healthcare worker told NAN that a vial of the vaccine was usually administered to a batch of 10 people.

At LASUTH, the vaccine is available at a cost of N7, 150 per shot but at Maternal and Childcare Centre (MCC), Surulere, it is not available.

A healthcare worker at the centre, who did not give his name, said that patients were referred to either EKO or Havana hospitals for the vaccine.

At LUTH, the vaccine was also not available though an official who spoke anonymously said that orders had been placed for it.

Also at the Primary Health Centre, Akerele, the vaccine was not available.

Mrs Ifeoma Ananaba, a patient at the PHC, told NAN that she could not afford to take the vaccine at a private hospital as it was costly there.

“I take all my vaccines, including my child’s at the PHCs, but we have not taken the meningitis vaccine because they do not give it at the PHC that I use.

“I call on the government to make it available at the PHCs because it will encourage many people who cannot afford it to go and have it.

“Even at lower cost, it should be introduced as part of the recommended vaccines for the routine immunisation,’’ she said.

Another patient, Mrs Veronica Essien, who also confirmed the high cost of the vaccine in private hospitals, urged the government to make it available at the PHCs.

According to her, she and low income earners like her would be able to afford it at the PHCs if it is introduced.

“The PHC is where I go to most of the time; I go there to see the doctor when I have very slight illnesses and also get my children immunised there.

“It is a place that I have learnt over time to be comfortable with because it is closer to my home.

“The government should make all recommended vaccines available at these centres if it truly wants to curb various diseases in the state and the country,’’ she said.

The people who spoke to NAN urged the Federal and Lagos State Governments to make the meningococcal vaccines available at various health facilities to enable more people access it.

NAN reports that since the outbreak of the disease early this year, the Federal Government has continued to impor the meningococcal vaccine in million of doses which were distributed to states.

The country has also witnessed more than 6,000 suspected cases in about 19 states, including Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Niger as the most devastated. 

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