Abysmal planning caused vaccines shortage in Ghana – Dr. Thomas Anabah
A former Medical Director of the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, Dr Thomas Winsum Anabah has chastised the government of Ghana for failing to make adequate plans for the procurement of childhood immunisation vaccines.
His comment follows the recent shortage of some vaccines used for routine immunisation of babies which led to reports of measles outbreak in the Northern part of Ghana. Speaking in an interview with the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), Dr Anabah said city authorities botched to prioritise programmed immunisation.
“The government just refused to renege on its responsibilities because the vaccination programme is a worldwide module understood by every nation. You can plan within a year or two to get vaccine for your country. It is government’s lack of priority, lack of understanding about the importance of vaccines and shared incompetency on the part of the Ministers of Health and Finance to get us the vaccines”, he said.
Furthermore, the General Secretary of the Ghana Registered Nurses’ and Midwives’ Association, Dr David Tenkorang-Twum blamed the government of Ghana for being unintentional about childhood immunisation.
“There was a general shift from other vaccination to Covid-19 however, government was not considerate about the plights of the vulnerable. I felt that we were not conscious about securing the needed childhood immunisation vaccines in their rightful quantities for kids. Nurses, our basic duty is to dispense vaccines and there are systems of accountability which enable us to notice our stock levels and report crucial levels to our superiors. It was the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to procure the vaccines, it is not our duty to go searching for vaccines”.
“Perhaps, we shifted attention from programmed vaccines and over-concentrated on Covid-19 vaccines even when we knew some of the investors will pull out, the government failed to adequately budget for these essential vaccines”, he said.
On his part, the Technical Officer in charge of Immunisation at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Ghana Country Office, Fred Osei-Sarpong said that even though routine immunisation is carefully strategized to ensure that kids are vaccinated, external factors; currency depreciation contributed to the shortages.
Mr Osei-Sarpong however reiterated the World Health Organization‘s continuous commitment to assisting Ghana in achieving immunisation coverage. “In order to deliver health services to kids in riverside communities, we have engaged appropriate stakeholders to procure boats and other logistics for healthcare workers”, he said.
Meanwhile, in a press release dated 12th March 2023, the Ghana Health Service announced the receipt of childhood immunisation vaccines. A statement signed by the Director General, Patrick Kuma-Aboagye states that “The Ministry of Health/Ghana Health Service has just taken delivery of some childhood vaccines that have been in short supply in the country for some time. The vaccines are BCG, OPV and Measles with accompanying devices (needles, syringes, safety boxes etc.)”.
The WHO in 2015, estimated that “about three million children under five years of age die each year in the African Region and a significant number of these deaths could be prevented by vaccines”.
In addressing challenges related to vaccine accessibility, players within the health sector identified the manufacturing of vaccines in Africa as a long-term intervention to forestall shortages within the continent. Currently, African countries rely on imported vaccines from Asia and Europe, and only 1% of vaccines are produced in Africa.
In April 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic, African Union Heads of State and over 40,000 esteemed participants in a virtual summit on “Expanding Africa’s Vaccine Manufacturing for Health Security”, recognised Africa’s limited vaccine manufacturing capacity and capabilities and endorsed the launch of the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM), which aims to leverage pan-African and global partnerships to scale-up vaccine manufacturing in Africa.
As a result of this, African leaders proposed the ambition to manufacture 60% of Africa’s routine immunisation needs on the continent by 2040. Today, African countries; Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, and Rwanda are in the process of building vaccine manufacturing plants.
A leading advocate for expanding vaccine access and uptake globally, advancing vaccine research and development and amplifying vaccine knowledge and Innovation is the Sabin Vaccine Institute. The Director of Advocacy and Outreach, Vaccine Acceptance and Demand, Vince Blaser, said as the continent makes progress towards the production of vaccines, there should be a continuous diplomatic push for effective systems that will ensure the timely supply of vaccines.
This reporting was supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Global Health Reporting Initiative: Vaccines and Immunization in Africa.