Upper East Launches Vaccines To Improve Children's HealthPneumonia has been rated as a prime cause of mortality among children under five years in Ghana. Although health experts say it is vaccine preventable, the country records 72,000 cases a year, with an annual death of 4,300 children.
Under five mortality in Ghana is still high at 80 deaths per 1000 live births, although there has been a 30 per cent reduction from 2003 to 2008.
Globally, pneumonia alone causes about 1.58 million deaths annually of children under five, which is more than the deaths caused by HIV and AIDS, malaria and measles put together.
However, according to a World Health Organisation report (WHO), Ghana has made phenomenal progress over the years in immunisation coverage against the six childhood diseases, from a national coverage of four per cent in 1985 to 90 per cent in 2012.
The Upper East Regional Director of Health Service, Dr Koku Awoonor-Williams, made this known in an address read on his behalf by Dr Ernest Opoku, Deputy Regional Director of Health in charge of Clinical Health, at the regional launch of two new vaccines,
Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccine (PCV) and Rotavirus Vaccine, effective against pneumonia and diarrhoea respectively.
He said to further reduce under-five morbidity and mortality in line with the country’s effort to achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Four; the two vaccines had been added to the routine of Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) services under the theme, “Two More Vaccines for Healthier, Happier Children.”
The EPI, he noted, was launched in 1978 with six antigens to fight against vaccine preventable diseases that were major causes of under-five deaths. “In 2002, the country added vaccines against two more diseases namely hepatitis B and Haemophilus Influenza B”.
Dr Awoonor-Williams said administering the pneumonia vaccines would lead to a reduction in Pneumonia hospitalisations and deaths in the country and contribute to reducing under-five mortality rate in Ghana by 20 per cent.
According to him, diarrhoea, just as pneumonia, is one of the leading killers of children worldwide and contributes to 17 per cent to under-five deaths in West Africa. Rotavirus is responsible for more than 60 per cent of all diarrhoeal cases and 95 per cent of the children get infected by age three to five.
He said the Government, through the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service, has implemented strategies to improve child health and prevent deaths among under five age groups, citing the second dose of measles, which was launched for children of 18 months to 30 months to address issues of re-emergence of the disease and to increase protection among vaccinated groups.
He called on stakeholders, mothers, development partners, women’s groups and care-givers to mobilise target groups to patronise the rotavirus and pneumonia vaccines to further reduce infant mortality rate to achieve the MDGs.
The Upper East Regional Minister, Mr Mark Owen Woyongo, who officially launched the vaccines, said the Government was committed to using health as a tool for reducing poverty, especially in deprived regions.
He said the introduction of the new vaccines should be seen as an opportunity for the region to set higher standards in health and ultimately reduce under-five deaths by 37 per cent.