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27.10.2004 Regional News

Kindergartens urged to participate in vaccination programmes

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Accra, Oct. 27, GNA - Kindergartens have been urged to ask for immunisation certificates or cards of children before admitting them into their institutions as part of the scaling up of activities in child survival programmes.

The Reverend Ama Afo Blay, former Director-General of the Ghana Education Service, said the demand for immunisation cards at the point of pre-school enrolment was not meant as a barrier to education but for screening purposes to ensure that all children were immunised. Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Wednesday, Rev. Afo Blay, who is also a UNICEF Consultant, said when kindergartens put in place such checks public health workers could then be invited to the schools to vaccinate children who had not been immunised.

She said children who were not immunised posed a risk to others in the school environment.

"It is for this very reason that a safety precaution has been established in the form of a synchronized programme for polio immunisation in West and Central Africa in order to prevent the spread of the crippling disease across the continent."

According to health experts any single child who was not immunised could serve as an entry point for the spread of diseases targeted for elimination or eradication.

In 2003, for instance, eight children in Ghana were paralysed for life as a result of wild polioviruses suspected to be closely associated with polioviruses from neighbouring countries.

As part of child survival activities both static and house-to-house polio immunisation strategies had been used to ensure that every child under-five years of age was reached with the oral polio vaccines. Dr Kwadwo Antwi-Agyei, Manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation, said Ghana was seeking a demand-driven approach to immunisation services where caregivers could actively seek immunisation programmes instead of waiting for public health workers to go around to immunise.

"The demand for immunisation is not there... disease trend in the country has gone down and people no longer see the effects of certain diseases and as such do not see the need to immunize their children." According to the recently released 2003 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey report, 69 per cent of Ghanaian children aged 12-23 months are fully immunised, while five per cent have received no vaccination at all.

The report also touched on the low coverage in follow-up polio and DPT vaccines after children had been given the first doses of these vaccines.

UNICEF has meanwhile initiated a continental programme in Africa to bring on board religious and traditional rulers and the media as allies to scale up efforts in immunisation and child survival programmes. This follows a recent boycott by religious and traditional rulers in Nigeria who mobilized opposition to immunisation in Nigeria over suspicions of the safety of polio vaccines, which they said were laced with infertility agents and other contaminated agents. 27 Oct. 04

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