IT was on the BBC website that I learnt that Ghana had been the first country to “approve” the use of a new malaria vaccine developed by an Oxford-based group.
I was surprised at this because there hadn’t been a word of this development in the Ghanaian media. Surely, our Drug-approval body would have communicated the information to the Oxford group before it informed the BBC? Why didn’t our Authority inform Ghanaians at the same time as it informed the Oxford group?
It is an important issue because I remember that when a Ghanaian research body was working with a foreign firm on trying to develop an Ebola vaccine, there was much controversy over whether it was fair for Ghanaians not to have been informed of the research programme beforehand.
Our office-holders do not learn, do they? A perfectly innocent research programme can assume sinister proportions the moment it is suspected that aspects of it were being kept “secret”.
Especially if money was involved (in the Ebola case, students who agreed to take part in the research were apparently offered a small sum plus a mobile telephone!)
And yet here we were again — a malaria vaccine was to be used on our infants, yet we were to learn of it from abroad! Do our officials appreciate the need for good “public relations” work in an industry in which “Big-Pharma” makes billions of dollars profit, and in which corners are often cut to aid profiteering?
One can only applaud the progress that has enabled our authorities to “approve” the Oxford vaccine for use in Ghana. I first heard of a potential malaria vaccine about half a century ago, when I went to the Gambia to do a story there and learnt of the presence in that country of a British National Research Council group, working on a malaria vaccine. Since then, research has continued unabated in several places, including Latin America and other countries in Africa. It is indeed an outstanding achievement.
However, several Ghanaians who have heard of the successful development of the vaccine have expressed the view that it should not be allowed to lull us into ignoring the environmental neglect we carry out in our towns and villages that enables mosquitoes to breed in their millions to bite us and give us malaria in the first place.
Here are a couple of interesting view points from the Internet:
QUOTE: How many vaccines are we going to administer before we realize that our filthy environment, stagnant waters, choked gutters, etc., are all contributing factors to the prevalence of malaria in the country? And [that] while improving sanitation would probably not totally eradicate malaria, it might go a long way to reducing the prevalence. And [also that] it will certainly be cheaper than importing massive amounts of the vaccine, not to mention the dangers of pumping chemicals into the bodies of the vaccine recipients.
My apologies to our doctors for treading on areas beyond my expertise. Unquote
Another Persn Wrote: QUOTE https://www.bbc.com/news/health-65252511
“You are right about the cleaning up of the environment. Behind our house in Kokomlmle (ACCRA) some people from Niger have been storing empty bottles for years. … Some are full of water, so we are now inundated by mosquitoes and have to spray regularly to help. We have also installed double mosquito netting on all the windows.
The caretaker constantly gets malaria as he sits outside near the gutter which has stagnant water. Is anyone going there to tell them to ensure that no water goes into empty plastic and glass bottles and that they have a duty to make sure that their recycling process [does NOT] breed mosquitoes?
Dr. Felix Konotey-Ahulu mentioned some years ago that when they were at school, they used to go to places like Anumle (Accra) and others to clear gutters and get rid of any stagnant water to reduce the chances of malaria spreading. So all the doctors are fully aware.
The problem is our Sanitation Ministers etc. There were days when PWD cleaned gutters so that there was no stagnant water. If the government does not enforce this and also does not do spot-checks, nothing will change….And, as everyone knows, Nature is wiser than us and that is why the mosquito very quickly got immune to all our malaria tablets. I wonder what trick they will play this time to get away from the jab!
We know what allows them to breed. All we have to do is CLEAN the environment and they will not have many places to breed.
We also know that we have to sleep under mosquito nets to be better protected. Finally, there is ‘DEET’ that does not stop them from biting but helps and then prevention by covering the body in long clothes etc at night if going out. Or staying indoors!
Many come to Ghana without taking any anti-malaria. They forget that they are not immune and what is even worse is the type of malaria parasite that lives dormant in the liver and can rear its ugly head at any time, long after one had left the tropics…. So when they fall ill they do not even tell the doctor that they have been to the tropics (because it was a year ago).
At that point, it is certain death, if malaria is not suspected. Prevention has always been better than cure. This vaccine is an amazing achievement if it really does work on the kids and protects them, as they are the ones who usually die. Let’s hope it keeps them all safe. As for chemicals in our bodies – that is the price one has to pay to stay alive for many years: in the olden days, without any of these chemicals, many people did not even get to 30 years of age! Unquote.
By CAMERON DUODU