The African Vaccination Week have been launched in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region to commemorate the preservation of health of children through vaccination.
The launched took place at the Lancaster Hotel in Kumasi on Thursday, 20th April 2023.
In attendance was the Minister of Health, Hon Kwaku Agyemang Manu, Director General at the Ghana Health Service, Dr Patrick Kuma Aboagye, Representatives of Partner Organizations, Queen Mothers, Health workers, Representatives of World Health Organization (WHO).
The Theme “Big Catch-Up’ , according to the Director General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Patrick Kuma Aboagye, is appropriate judging from the fact that there was an urgent need for everyone to ensure that all eligible children received their vaccines at the appropriate time.
Dr Aboagye who joined the launch as part of the scheduled activities at the three-day Annual First senior managers meeting indicated that , it was not just a case of rhetoric, explaining, “We need to back it up with action and selflessness as well as to ensure quality leadership which, the country is committed to provide”
Ghana has already institutionalised the celebration, to among other things, create awareness of the various health interventions that were available for children across the country.
The platform, he said, was also used to advocate for more resources from all stakeholders in immunisation.
Dr Kuma Aboagye said the country had achieved great successes over the years in child health through sustained immunisation, citing the elimination of neonatal tetanus since 2011, mainly through awareness, advocacy, as well as improved routine and surveillance activities.
He said childhood diseases such as measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, yellow fever and polio that used to kill or permanently deform hundreds of children annually in Ghana had also reduced tremendously.
He, however, warned that these diseases had not vanished, and may reoccur if “we slacken in our efforts at immunising all eligible children at the right time”.
The Health Director emphasised that vaccination was a community responsibility, saying, when the most vulnerable members of the population were vaccinated, the entire community was protected and called for the overall support from all stakeholders including the private sectors.
Dr Francis Kasolo, World Health Organization (WHO) Representatives to Ghana on his part commended Ghana for the efforts made over the years in the quest to achieve universal Health Coverage (UHC) and also the global agenda towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.
He praised Ghana’s health financing approach with the institution of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), as a commendable innovative health financing mechanism that was worthy of emulation by other African countries.
In an interview with the media, Dr Kasolo explained that, the event is the beginning of a year-long push of the “Big Catch-Up”, to reverse the backsliding of routine immunization.
According to him African Vaccination Week is a weeklong event that seeks to raise awareness about the importance of immunization in protecting against deadly diseases. “This year’s theme, ‘the Big Catch-up’, is timely, given the challenges we have faced, particularly, over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said”.
Dr Francis Kasolo added that, the pandemic has had a significant impact on routine immunization services, with many children missing out on vital vaccinations. This according to him has resulted in a rise in preventable diseases, such as measles and yellow fever, which had previously been on the decline. “The Big Catch-up is an opportunity for us to redouble our efforts to ensure that every child has access to life-saving vaccines”.
He said, thought, Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions available, and it is estimated that immunization prevents 2-3 million deaths each year but vaccines not only protect the individual who receives them but also create herd immunity, which helps to protect the entire community, including those who are unable to be vaccinated.
He then urged Ghanaians to work together as we celebrate the 2023 African Vaccination Week, and ensure that no child is left behind vaccination. This means investing in strong immunization systems, increasing vaccine coverage, and ensuring that vaccines are accessible to all.
He also entreated every health worker to address vaccine hesitancy, which has become a growing concern in recent years, especially in our COVID-19 vaccine deployment.
Dr Kasolo stressed that, misinformation and mistrust have led some people to refuse vaccination, putting them at risk of diseases.
“We must work to address these concerns, provide accurate information, and build trust in vaccines and the health systems that deliver them. Ghana have made great strides in improving and sustaining vaccination coverage over the years, and through the support of WHO and other partners, efforts have been made to enable children in some of the remotest parts of the country access life-saving vaccines” , he added.
WHO and its sister UN agencies in Ghana, will continue to support the Government of Ghana in achieving universal health coverage, they reiterated.
Story by Akwadaa Nyame