Emmanuel Egbroko talks about his organization and vaccine challenges in NigeriaIdes Ofune 4th August 2020 0 COMMENTS
Emmanuel Egbroko is the co-founder of Community Based Participatory Immunization Foundation– CBPI. He is a social innovator, an entrepreneur with vast business acumen. He is also a Pharmacist and an Alumnus of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Ghana. Emmanuel is currently a LEAP Fellow and a beneficiary of the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Grant. DBA recently caught up with him to understand the work he does with CBPI, the motivations behind it and the innovative hybrid model. It was quite enlightening talking about tackling the challenges with vaccinations in Nigeria.
Tell us Emmanuel, why did you set up this organization?
I started this organization to solve the problem of vaccine preventable diseases in Nigeria. During my National Youth Service Program in Minna Niger State, I came across a woman that had cervical cancer. She was menopausal and was wondering why she had some terrible symptoms. When she visited the hospital, it was already too late as the cancer had metastasized. She was placed on chemotherapy and she died. I believe if she had been aware of cervical cancer through educational campaigns or if she had been screened and vaccinated, it would have been detected on time. We at CBPI believe that the menace of preventable diseases should be brought to the barest minimum. A good example is hepatitis B. Once people are vaccinated, they are protected against this horrible disease.
How do you go about advocacy and educational campaigns?
We use various online platforms and social media. From time to time, we carry out community outreaches. Then we started “Project inoculate”, a mobile on-demand vaccination clinic where people can have access to vaccination service at their convenient place and time instead of going to clinics. People want to get vaccinated but do not have the time. Not all jobs give you ample time to do what you want to do privately. With the mobile clinic, anybody can place an order then we take the vaccines to your doorstep. People get vaccinated in their cars, houses etc. It’s from this paid service that we fund our rural outreach community vaccination programs. The way we work is that we have partner organisations that store the vaccines because we are still a young startup and do not have such storage facilities.
Then we have vaccine carrier boxes on transit when we have jobs. We have partner doctors and nurses that we employ to administer the vaccines when needed. Right now, they are employed on a part time basis. When there is more demand, we can afford to keep them full time. Project Inoculate was co-founded with Dr. Osezua Momoh. We have about 5 people working with the foundation.
Vaccines are available in public hospitals for free, how sustainable is your organization?
We provide vaccines for preventable diseases that the government is not able to fund. For example chicken pox rota vaccine. Many children are not being vaccinated for reasons ranging from unavailability, high expense etc. That’s where our organization comes in. Another example is hepatitis B. 24.9 million Nigerians are affected and the vaccines are not funded by the government. Most adults are not vaccinated against this disease until it is too late. These are all preventable with the aid of vaccines. With our rural outreach project, we screen people for free but subsidize the cost of the vaccines. During the outreach programme, we link people to care when we come across severe cases. We refer them to hospitals and follow up to ensure that they receive adequate treatment.
Who are your target audience?
Our target audience is across all strata of society. However, because we are providing vaccines for preventable disease, we find a way to make them available to everyone no matter your economic status. We have a payment plan and solution for everyone. We provide vaccines for children and adults where there are gaps in the government funded programmes for diseases such as chicken pox, typhoid, meningitis, hepatitis A, B, cervical cancer, pneumonia. The vaccines are usually very expensive so we provide at a subsidized rate for the poor. For example, rota vaccine for young children is currently not being provided at public hospitals. Mothers are also not informed that they need to vaccinate their children. This is one reason why about 74, 000 children annually die in Nigeria as a result of diarrhea. Access is another problem. These people are all our target audience who benefit greatly from our programmes.
What are your key challenges?
Yes, we are doing a social good but we also want to scale up. Our hybrid project is that we make money from the wealthy to help fund the vaccines for the poor. Those who have the means don’t mind paying for cervical cancer vaccines for example. We believe that the model is sustainable and has a lot of impact but we need more funding.
How do you deal with the rising case of vaccine hesitancy? Is this happening in Nigeria?
Vaccine hesitancy happens when parents are skeptical of administering vaccines to their children. You find this phenomenon in northern Nigeria because of various myths. However, there is a lot of improvement through the help of religious and political leaders that are reshaping mindsets. Once people get educated on the benefits of vaccines, there should be really no challenge. Furthermore, Nigeria has a problem of data as we do not really know who has been vaccinated or not. For us, everyone we vaccinate, we document and keep a database. We are therefore working towards creating herd communities because the more herd communities we have in Nigeria, the more people are protected. We want to use data to advocate for more funding and to create awareness because it gives us more power to talk about the realities on ground.
What’s your organisation’s vision?
We want to reach at least 3,000,000 persons before 2030. We also want to be able to manufacture vaccines here in Nigeria so that it could be more affordable and less costly. These vaccines are not difficult to produce and through this, we can help neighbouring countries.
Any success story you would like to share?
We got featured in the United Nations Development Solutions report where new innovative solutions are published. In August and October 2019 during the United Nations World Health Week, these solutions were unveiled. We were ranked among the top 50 in the world. Leaders of our organization have also participated in a UN 16 week accelerator programme called Investment Readiness Programme where we are linked to a Mentor to sharpen our business acumen. It was quite impactful.
Thank you Emmanuel for speaking with Desert Bloom Advisory. We have learned so much. We hope that your organisation continues the good work and keeps blooming. If you want to contact CBPI or Emmanuel, contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at email@example.com