Nursing mothers in Ghana would have to wait until next week before having their babies vaccinated against Polio and Measles following the shortage of the vaccines in the country.
This because Ghana owed the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the international body that procures the vaccine across the globe, huge sums of money.
The vaccines are usually administered to newborn babies to fight the deadly childhood diseases.
Confirming the shortage on the Citi Breakfast Show on Wednesday, the Director-General at the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Anthony Nsiah Asare said Ghana will soon receive such supplies because they have paid close to $10 million to UNICEF for the procurement of the vaccines.
“The fact is that we get the polio vaccines procured for us through UNICEF. There was an outstanding bill from last year which was not paid. God being so good, just this week we have managed to clear that bill and as we speak now they will be airlifting the polio vaccine to the country.”
“The one that we are transferring is about 10 million dollars which we are going to use to get all the consignment we need for the next year or so and we will then schedule and clear all the outstanding bills,” he added.
When asked whether the shortages could adversely affect babies and infants who needed them the most, Dr. Asare said they have put in place measures to mitigate such issue.
“What we are doing to mitigate it is that we call other districts and regions where they have stock then we forward to places where the stock had gone low. So a day or two difference will not make much difference so we will sort it out I’m sure by the close of the week,” he assured.
Annual vaccine supply
The Director-General explained that Ghana usually receives vaccine supply that could last for about a year from UNICEF but would have to clear outstanding debts before receiving new consignment.
“We have yearly consumption but the problem was that we pay for the previous year’s outstanding bills and then also this year’s bills. It comes to the Central cold home at Korle Bu and we also send it to the regional centres and they are also send it to the various districts. When I checked up the money has been released. Immediately the money has been transferred which we got a copy of the transfer yesterday, they will release the vaccines,” he added.
Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus and mainly affects children under 5 years of age. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.
The virus 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.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1 in 200 infections lead to irreversible paralysis. It adds that among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
WHO adds that failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.
In Ghana since the outbreak of polio in 2008, no such cases have been recorded in the country as of 2015.