Accra, Ghana (PANA) - Ghana on Thursday made history as the first African country to simultaneously introduce pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines in its national immunization programme, in a bid to fight pneumonia and diarrheoal diseases, each of which accounts
for approximately 10 per cent of under-five deaths in the country.
The ceremony at which the vaccines was introduced also served as the platform for the official launch of the second African Vaccination Week (AVW), which is being observed from 23 to 28 April under the theme “An unimmunized child is one too many. Give polio the final push.”
Ghanaian First Lady Ernestina Naadu Mills said at the introduction of the two life-saving vaccines: “I am happy to announce that vaccines against pneumonia will from today be available at all health centres and hospitals. Children will be given three doses of the vaccine at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age. Also, rotavirus vaccines will be administered to children aged 6 and 10 weeks.”
The First Lady was joined at the launch by WHO Deputy Director-General Anarfi Asamoah-Baah; Coordinator of the WHO Inter-Country Support Team for West Africa O. Walker, representing the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo; Chief Executive Officer of the GAVI Alliance Seth Berkley; Ghana’s Health Minister Alban Bagbin and UNICEF Country Representative in Ghana Iyabode Olusanmi, among other international guests.
In his remarks, Asamoah-Baah praised Ghana’s “bold” decision to introduce the two vaccines at the same time and spoke of the phenomenal progress Ghana had made over the years in immunization coverage - from a national coverage of 4% with just one antigen in 1985 to a
national coverage of 90% with nine antigens in 2012.
He attributed this progress to the commitment of the government of Ghana; the leadership and vision of the country’s health ministry; the dedication of its country’s health workers, particularly nurses, and the facilitative role of partners and the country’s women and mothers.
On his part, Dr Berkley said: ”Ghana has taken the lead…it has taken a bold and courageous decision and today’s simultaneous launch marks yet another ambitious and encouraging step to make life-saving vaccines rapidly and efficiently available to children who need them wherever thy may be born. The world is watching as Ghana has set an example for everyone else’’.
On the launch of the AVW, Dr Walker said: “As one of the most efficient, cost-effective public health interventions, vaccinations are critical to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Further improvements in coverage, expansion of resource pools and large-scale introduction of new vaccines targeting an increasing number of infectious diseases are needed to sustain the gains.”
He drew attention to the focus of the observance of the second AVW: interrupting wild polio transmission, through strengthening national immunization programmes and increasing vaccination coverage as well as accelerating the uptake of new and existing vaccines.
Dr. Walker said the second AVW was a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the value and importance of vaccination; mobilize human, financial, material and other resources, and implement a variety of activities aimed at improving child survival and primary health care interventions in the region.
The 2nd AVW coincides with the first ever World Immunization Week, being celebrated from to 21 to 28 April 2012.
-0- PANA SEG 26April2012