The Paediatric Society of Ghana, has revealed that over 500 cases of measles, have so far been recorded in the country due to the unavailability of essential vaccines.
The Ranking Member on the Health Committee of Parliament, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, has since asked the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, to step aside if he cannot effectively deliver on his mandate. He revealed that the country, since last October, has been recording measles outbreak.
Dr Hilda Boye, the newly elected President of the Paediatric Society of Ghana, said the situation is quite worrying because the delay in the arrival of the vaccines can potentially escalate the disease.
“As we speak, we are looking at about 500 suspected cases of measles. So we are worried because we are just sitting and watching, and it is getting worse by the day and that is expected also because it is an infectious disease, and we really shouldn’t have come to this place in the first place.
“We know how bad these illnesses are, and we know that there is a solution and everybody has to sit up so that we don’t get to this point,” Dr Boye said on the Citi Breakfast Show on Tuesday, March 7.
Several parts of the country, have been hit with a shortage of vaccines in the last few months, despite claims by the National Health Insurance Authority that over GH¢70 million has been released for the procurement of the vaccines.
The situation became worse in February, after major health facilities in most regions turned nursing mothers away due to the erratic supply of vaccines, including measles, polio and tetanus.
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has attributed the shortage of vaccines used for routine immunisation of babies to the depreciation of the Ghana Cedi.
The shortage of vaccines, has the potential to increase the vulnerability of children to the diseases the vaccines seek to protect them against.
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.
The Minority in Parliament, had also said that the shortage of vaccines in the country, is a clear indication of the government’s ineptitude.
The group says, despite the allocation of about GH¢72 million for the procurement of vaccines, the country has been hit with the outbreak of Measles since October 2022 due to the shortage of vaccines.
Speaking to journalists, Mr Mintah Akandoh, said “we started recording measles vaccine shortages around October 2022 and this is an emergency situation and the minister and the government have failed and continue to look on, for several months on.
“This is highly unacceptable especially when these vaccines are not over-the-counter medicines that people can walk in and buy them. These vaccines are very sensitive and highly protected by organizations and states so if we don’t have the vaccines, all the children in this country are at very high risk, especially in the Northern part of the country.”
Mr Akandoh, further stressed that the shortages are “unpardonable because, in the planning of vaccine procurement and its deployment, we are supposed to plan ahead.”
In other developments, the Health Minister who was scheduled to appear before Parliament on Tuesday, March 7 to provide answers for the vaccine shortages was excused by the Speaker.
This is the second time the Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, failed to appear before the House as he was unable to honour a February 28, scheduled appearance.
The Ministry of Health, had dismissed reports that some babies have died from the measles outbreak due to the unavailability of vaccines.
Addressing the press on Tuesday, the sector minister, Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, said reports that some deaths have been recorded are completely untrue.
“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 recently recorded spike in Measles cases. Indeed, there have been no deaths since 2003 though we have recorded cases annually.”
The Minister also assured that some essential childhood vaccines will be available in a few weeks.
“The recent shortage in Vaccines for measles, as regrettable as it is, is symptomatic of the steady global decline in measles vaccination since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.
“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.”