By Phyllis D. Osabutey
A Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the University of Ghana, Legon, Dr. George Armah, has appealed to the government to sustain the building of supply chain management mechanisms and increase efficiency in vaccine delivery.
This, in addition to training of health workers, would help address and disseminate lessons learned in the administration of vaccines throughout the country, because 'continued growth and expansion in our nation and healthcare systems is critical,' he said.
Dr. Armah was commenting on the recent introduction of rotavirus and pneumonia vaccines to infants, as part of the National Immunisation Programme saying, 'This is a feat that is remarkable in both scope and ambition.'
He lauded the introduction of the vaccines, saying, 'All children in Ghana now have the chance to develop on equal footing as their counterparts worldwide,' and added that 'Ghana's future can only get brighter, as we continue to reach each and every one of our youngest citizens.'
He expressed regret that thousands of children are lost to rotavirus alone each year, and when rotavirus vaccines are not available, children get sick, spread the virus easily through contaminated hands and objects, and also succumb quickly to the deadly dehydration rotavirus causes, when treatment is unavailable, or comes too late.
On the other hand, he said often starting out as a cough and a fever, pneumonia advances quickly, claiming a child's life before treatment can ever be administered. Adding, 'One thing these diseases have in common is that they are the biggest killers of children under age five worldwide.'
Furthermore, he pointed out that these diseases are preventable by vaccination. 'While we have been able to implement other vaccines in the past, our children have continued to wage a war with rotavirus and pneumonia.'
He emphasised: 'Similarly, many mothers have heartbreaking tales to tell about children they have lost to pneumonia and related sepsis and pertussis,' thus, saving lives is the obvious benefit of making vaccines available to families.
He expressed joy at the estimation that these vaccines would save 14,000 lives over the next ten years, and said, 'To achieve this, an astonishingly coordinated national system was created to implement these vaccines – from the development of cold storage facilities, to training health workers to funding of the actual vaccines, and everyone involved focused on preventing diseases like rotavirus, pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis.'
Dr. Armah, who is also a member of the Rotavirus Organisation of Technical Allies (ROTA), noted that this was the most crucial time for the nation to come together to capitalise on the opportunity to save children.
According to him, this was the only way to secure the country's future, as healthier children would be able to attend school, learn and grow into future leaders, and stressed: 'Now it is up to all of us to make sure that this unprecedented achievement is a life-long one that we can celebrate for years to come.'
He pointed out that the treatment of rotavirus diarrhoea costs the country an estimated $3.2 million a year, and implementing the vaccines would save $1.7 million in treatment costs, thus, he expressed hope that mothers throughout the country would present their children to receive these life-saving doses.