Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang-Manu says the Ministry of Health has been seriously concerned about the shortage of some childhood vaccines and their effect on the vaccination programme in the country.
Updating Parliament on the issue, the Minister said the shortage is a major source of worry for the Ministry, Partners, Caregivers and population.
He revealed that payment has been made by the government of Ghana for the procurement of the Vaccines.
The vaccines he announced would arrive in Ghana between 2 to 3 weeks or even earlier.
He added that it would not be too late for children who are waiting to be vaccinated.
“Mr Speaker, we are expecting to receive vaccines within two to three weeks. We have done all the necessary arrangements and within two to three weeks we should get vaccines. We have done everything to ensure that we get these vaccines earlier, but it will be very difficult for me to tell you exactly when the vaccines will arrive,” Agyemang-Manu said
“Mr. Speaker, I must say, however, that the current shortage of some childhood vaccines in the country has concerned me greatly. This shortage, if prolonged, will affect negatively Ghana’s Childhood Immunisation Programme, which has been recognised as one of the most successful in the world. The WHO has only recently expressed worry about a steady decline in measles vaccination coverage globally, because of the concentration on the fight against COVID-19.
Read the full update below
UPDATE ON THE SHORTAGE OF SOME ROUTINE CHILDHOOD VACCINES IN THE COUNTRY
- Mr. Speaker, thank you for a very beautiful opportunity to be here to answer to the shortage of some childhood vaccines in the country and matters arising, and the associated outbreak of measles in the Northern Region.
- The Ministry of Health has been seriously concern about the shortage of some childhood vaccines and their effect on the vaccination programme in the country. This is a major source of worry for the Ministry, Partners, Caregivers and population.
- We are aware of the implication of the shortage including disease outbreaks and effects on child survival.
- The Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), has been a flagship disease control programme in the country and arguably, one of the best programmes if not the best in the Subregion, with high coverage of over 90%. We have an established system for forecasting, procurement, supply and distribution of routine vaccines and monitoring their use.
- Mr. Speaker there are 10 different vaccines for our immunisation programs that protect children against thirteen (13) different diseases. Four (4) of these vaccines are 100% funded by the government of Ghana whiles the remaining six (6) are supplied by GAVI in cost sharing agreement with government. The shortages we are experiencing now affects three of the four traditional vaccines fully funded by government and supplied through UNICEF.
- Mr. Speaker, it is true that we have had some vaccine shortages in the country since the last quarter of 2022. The vaccines in short supply are BCG, Measles Rubella (MR) and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). This shortage is nationwide.
- The recent shortages in some childhood vaccines regrettably coincided with the performance of the economy towards the second half of last year, and this affected our normal procurement processes which resulted in delays for vaccines we would have needed in 2023.
- Despite the delay in our procurement processes, we had stocks which carried us through 2022, resulting in our end of year national coverage of 95% measles, OPV, 90%, and BCG 96%.
- Mr. Speaker, a district is said to be in an outbreak when there are two or more laboratory confirmed measles cases that are temporally related (with dates of rash onset occurring 7-21 days apart) and the cases are linked. In this context, five districts in the Northern Region have been in an outbreak situation. These are Tamale Metro; Kumbungu; Savelugu; Karaga and Nanumba North.
- Mr. Speaker, the vaccination coverage for 2022 for the 5 districts are moderately high and are as follows: Savelugu 80.5% , Tamale Metro 107.8, Karaga 101.9%, Kumbungu 96.3% and Nanumba North 74.2% and we believe this is enough to prevent an outbreak.
- Mr. Speaker, one major contributor to measles outbreak is accumulation of unvaccinated persons over a period of time. These children constitute a cohort of vulnerable groups who become the focus of infection. This is why the country has been conducting mass catch-up and follow-up measles (and rubella) vaccination campaigns every three to five years with support from Gavi, WHO, UNICEF and other Partners. This year’s Mass campaign is yet to be undertaken and discussions with our Partners is on-going.
- It is important to correct the erroneous impression that, there have been deaths from measles in Ghana recently. For the avoidance of doubt, there have been no deaths from the recent recorded spike in measles cases. Indeed there have been no deaths since 2003 though we have recorded cases annually.
- Mr. Speaker, mercifully, no child has died in this outbreak.
- Following the confirmation of cases, the following Public Health Actions have been taken:
• Alerts and facts sheets and Standard Operating Procedures have been sent out to all healthcare facilities, districts, and surveillance sites in the region
• Surveillance has been enhanced through daily records reviews and ward rounds;
• There have been active community case searches ongoing
• Contacts of confirmed cases have been traced
• Public education and sensitisations are ongoing across the region
• Cases are being managed according to national guidelines at the various health facilities
• Vitamin A supplementation is provided to cases
• The Ministry, working with WHO and other Partners, has initiated an application to the International Coordination Group (ICG) for supply of Measles-Rubella vaccines for outbreak response vaccination campaign.
- Mr. Speaker, on this basis, we appeal to caregivers, opinion leaders, school authorities and the public to make children available for routine vaccination and vaccination campaigns so that no child is left behind. In the meantime, we advise parents to exercise restraint and be rest assured that, it will not be too late to take the vaccine when available.
- As we increase our advocacy campaign to reduce vaccine hesitancy, we urge our colleagues to support this drive.
- Mr. Speaker, we have made all necessary efforts to ensure that we secure adequate stocks within the next few weeks.
- Working with UNICEF, we are fast-tracking the processes and it is expected that the vaccines will be supplied in the next few weeks, all things being equal.
- Mr. Speaker, before I take my seat, I would like to clarify that, the reference to WHO in the press statement was meant to explain the cumulative effect of COVID-19 on the overall vaccine supply chain and not necessarily that there is a current global shortage of vaccines.
- Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your attention.