Ghana is exploring the possibility of funding the procurement of vaccines for its Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) from the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)
Currently, the country is supported to procure its vaccines by Gavi — The Vaccine Alliance and spends about $33 million on vaccines a year.
According to the Health Minister, Mr Alex Segbefia, Ghana co-finances vaccine procurement in line with the requirements of Gavi.
Mr Segbefia, who was speaking in an interview at the Ministerial Conference on Immunisation being held in Addis Ababa, disclosed that last year, Ghana spent $8 million on the procurement of vaccines.
He explained that Ghana was one of the countries being graduated off Gavi support, having attained a middle income status.
This means that the country was going through a step-wise graduating process to end in 2020, when it would be required to fully fund its immunisation programme, he said.
As part of the process the country started with bearing 20 per cent of the cost of its vaccines this year which amounted to $12 million and this will be increased by another 20 per cent each year till 2020, when Ghana will assume full responsibility for the vaccines process.
He said, however, that after being weaned off Gavi support, the country would for a period buy vaccines at Gavi-subsidised prices.
Mr Segbefia indicated that the committee working on the in-country funding mechanism for vaccines identified the NHIS as the possible financier for procurement “because it is a worthwhile investment as vaccinations reduce diseases”.
He emphasised that when the disease burden of the country was reduced through immunisation, payment for treatment of diseases by the NHIS would be minimal.
Contributing to a plenary discussion on “Financing the future: Ensuring sustainable resources for immunisation in an evolving landscape for health”, the health minister noted that vaccines were fundamental to health care because they saved lives.
Mr Segbefia said health care should be viewed as a societal developmental issue and vaccination was the best buy-in.
However, he stressed that financing immunisation programmes had to be properly tackled, as many African countries had issues with health financing across the board.
He, however, expressed concern about the merging of major vaccine-producing companies, pointing out that having fewer companies was likely to increase the prices of vaccines and put it far beyond the reach of African countries.
This could greatly affect the capability of many African countries to fully fund their immunisation programmes, Mr Segbefia added.