Polio Vaccine Shortage Hits Hospital

Thousands of babies born in Ghana in the past few weeks are at risk of contracting poliomyelitis, one of the six killer diseases.

The highly-contagious disease which is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system and affects children, particularly those younger than five years, poses a great threat to the country’s efforts at maintaining its status of polio-free since 2008.

This situation is due to the inability of government to procure the vaccine on time to restock hospitals that need the vaccine, which has been very successful in combating polio to protect children from the disease.

The Director-General at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Anthony Nsiah Asare, admitted the fact that the country has not been able to make timely procurement of the essential vaccine, and added that government has assured that the vaccine will soon be in the country.

He pointed out that government has already made payment of about $3.2m through UNICEF to its suppliers in order to have the vaccines in the country in the next few days.

“I am reliably informed; I have the documentation, that the money has hit the accounts of UNICEF. So we have paid the (for the vaccines that we need) for the whole of this year and next year,” he stated.

“What we are waiting for is the airlifting of the vaccines to Ghana…We are working around the clock. I want to assure everybody – those who took their babies for vaccination and could not get it – hopefully (Monday) the vaccines will be in,” Dr Nsiah Asare explained.

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The Communications Manager of UNICEF Ghana, Eulette Ewart, explained the procurement procedure and said UNICEF procures the vaccines but is not the supplier.

She explained that UNICEF’s expertise in the area is in responding promptly and scheduling appropriately the lifting of vaccines in Ghana to ensure that the lives of countless children can be saved.

“In the case of the vaccines being discussed, the government of Ghana pays 100 percent for the cost of these vaccines to the supplier,” Eulette Ewart stated.

The process of facilitating the procurement of vaccines between UNICEF and the government of Ghana makes its vaccine request to the UNICEF supply division in Copenhagen through UNICEF Ghana country office.

The estimate is sent back to the Ghana Health Service, which is then required to send the funds transfer to UNICEF Supply Division – based in Copenhagen with the vaccines supplied according to a schedule when the transfer is effected.

She opined that with regard to the present situation, the government of Ghana has sent the funds transfer and so the vaccines are expected in the next few days.

The polio virus which is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (for example, contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine causing total paralysis with one in 200 being irreversible.

Along with diphtheria, tetanus, tuberculosis, measles and whooping cough, the disease has killed many children and caused deformities.

In Ghana since the outbreak of polio in 2008, no such cases have been recorded in the country as of 2015.

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By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri

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