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Vaccine Shortage: We Will Quickly Overcome This Bottleneck – Health Minister Assures

The Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman Manu has reaffirmed assurances that his outfit will overcome the childhood vaccine shortage situation in the country.

According to him, the vaccines would be made available in the country in the “next few weeks, all things being equal.”

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Mr. Agyeman Manu said, “The Ministry of Health will ensure that we stay on track with our immunization record and quickly overcome these bottlenecks.”

This, he explained is because the Health Ministry is working with UNICEF, “and we are fast-tracking the procurement processes.”

It would be recalled that Ghana Health Service (GHS) announced a shortage of the routine childhood immunisation vaccine.

According to them, the shortage is a result of the depreciation of the Ghana Cedi.

“It is three key traditional vaccines that we have run out towards the end of the year. Polio vaccine 0 (OPV), Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG0 and then the Measles-Rubella vaccines were supposed to be procured in the first quarter of the year but due to the currency depreciation, the amount that was available could not pay.”

Under the routine vaccination programme, Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB) disease; oral polio vaccine 0 (OPV); Measles-Rubella; Meningitis and Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) are administered.

Vaccines against polio, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B (DPT/Hep B/ Hib 1) and six infectious diseases that are particularly dangerous to babies are also among those administered.

Meanwhile, the Paediatric Society of Ghana says it has noted with grave concern, reports of shortages of vaccines across the country.

A statement issued by the Society dated February 22, 2023 said, “This is the tip of the iceberg as our investigations reveal that more than 90 cases have been recorded in one major facility alone. The shortage extends beyond Measles vaccine to other childhood diseases including Rotavirus, Tuberculosis, and Pneumococcal vaccines.

In a related development, President-elect of the Pediatric Society of Ghana, Dr. Hilda Manteybea Boye said in an interview with JoyNews said “we risk having children die” as a result of the shortage.

She therefore urged the Ghana Health Service to expedite action.

“It is the action that we are looking for. So whatever it will take for them to get us the vaccines like today, because every day we risk having children die from this shortage,” she said.

Currently, 16 districts in the Northern Region have recorded cases of measles.

Head of Pediatrics and Child Health at the Tamale Teaching Hospital, Professor Alhassan Abdul Mumin confirmed the measles outbreak, indicating that there is no district in the Northern Region, that has not recorded an outbreak of measles for most of the children who were born since 2022.

On his part, a Neurosurgeon and General Secretary of the Islamic Medical Association of Ghana, Dr. Hardy Abdullah says the shortage can affect the development of a child’s nervous system.

“The long-term effects, especially measles and Rubella could have an impact on the baby’s central nervous system. And so as a country, the fact that we can’t get the vaccine is unfortunate.”

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