The Ghana Health Service (GHS) yesterday announced the roll out of the new malaria vaccine in 93 districts across the country beginning from December 1, this year.
This followed the successful piloting of the RTS, S /ASO1 new malaria vaccine in 42 districts during which more than 175,000 children under five years of age were vaccinated against the malaria disease.
The Director General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye who announced this in Accra yesterday implored the journalists to educate Ghanaians to embrace the exercise as the country was poised to achieve malaria elimination by 2030.
According to Dr Kuma-Aboagye, it is through the media that the GHS can achieve the objective for which Ghana has set itself to eliminate malaria, which accounts for more than 40 percent of Out-Patients- Department (OPD) cases in hospitals and other health facilities across the country.
According to Dr Kuma-Aboagye, the country officially introduced the vaccine into its routine immunisation programme on May 1, 2019 and this has been operational in 42 districts in the country since.
He added that the expansion of implementation of the vaccine immunisation programme was based on the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group, following the World Health Organisation (WHO’s) recommendation for broader use of the vaccine in areas with moderate to high transmission.
Despite international intervention to scale up existing interventions to control malaria, about half of the world’s population remains at risk causing hundreds of deaths and illness every year, with 90 per cent of these deaths and illness occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, many among children younger than five years.
In Ghana, Dr Kuma-Aboagye said, malaria caused 2000 deaths annually with approximately 48 per cent under the age of five, saying that, “malaria was the major cause of hospital attendance contributing to an estimated 30 per cent admission in the country a situation which we cannot contend with.”
The GHS Director General said, the RTS, S /ASO1 vaccine was safe and would therefore be expanded to 93 districts in seven regions, namely, Ahafo, Bono, Bono East, Central, Oti, Upper East and Volta.
With the new malaria vaccine, he advised Ghanaians to still remain to the existing malaria prevention protocols of sleeping under treated bed nets, residual spraying both indoor and outdoor.
The EPI Programme Manager, Dr Kwame Amoponsah Achiano who made a presentation on the overview of malaria vaccination in the country and plans for expansion reiterated the important role of the journalists in the malaria elimination campaign, adding that the educational campaign should be sustained.
He explained that the RTS, S /ASO1 vaccine was not a treatment for the disease but one that prevent it from affecting its victim.
There were assurances from partners such as the World Health Organisation, PATH and the United Nations children agency (UNICEF) and other international partners to support production and availability of the vaccine to the target communities.
BY NORMAN COOPER