Reports from the team that was dispatched to Volta and Eastern regions to verify rumours that children had died after taking part in the national de-worming exercise proved that there was no iota of truth about the deaths.
Speaking to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview, Dr Alex Dodoo, Director of the Independent Centre for Pharmacovigilance of the University of Ghana Medical School, Legon, who led the seven-member team said evidence from a visit to all the mentioned schools and health facilities indicated that there were only a few minor cases of adverse reactions to the drug.
He explained that all children who reported to health facilities with stomach crumps, dizziness and headaches were treated with water, reassurance and discharged the same day whilst some were detained overnight.
"Those few minor cases were blown out of proportion causing pandemonium," he added.
The national de-worming exercise, the first to be organized by the Ghana Health Service, Ministry Education in collaboration with UNICEF, began on Monday but suffered some setbacks with rumours starting from Keta in the Volta Region that some children who took a tablet of Mebendazole (500mg) had died and others suffered severe side effects and were rushed to hospitals.
These rumours travelled to other regions with the exception of the three Northern regions.
This called for an Emergency Partners Meeting and a team of Pharcovigilance was dispatched on Tuesday to investigate alleged reports of adverse reactions.
The week-long exercise, which was simultaneously carried out throughout the country, has a target of 4.5 million children from kindergarten to Junior Secondary School (JSS) in 28,043 schools to receive a tablet of Mebendazole (500mg) each for the treatment of soil-transmitted worms only.
The drug, imported by UNICEF, was manufactured by Remedica Limited in Cyprus in August 2005 and would expire in August 2010.
Dr. Dodoo noted that the rumours were so serious that parents stormed schools to pick up their children whilst some beat up teachers for giving their children poison.
"Some parents went to extent of giving palm oil to their children to flush out the 'poison' from them and that could also cause something else," he noted.
Some schools suspended the exercise because of the rumours and attacks from parents.
He explained that the adverse reactions the some children suffered like stomach crumps, vomiting, headaches, nausea and dizziness were normal with every de-wormer, "but such reactions do not lead to death as were reported".
He recommended that the Safety Monitoring System of the Ministry of Health should be active and strengthened, communication with parents and teachers should be taken seriously and they should be told the possible side effects whenever such programmes were carried out.
Dr Dodoo advised the Ministry of develop Risk and Crises Management guidelines to respond to such emergencies when they occurred in the future.