GHS to administer 1st malaria vaccines to children nationwide soon

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) plans to upscale the administration of the RTS, malaria vaccines for children up to two years in the coming months.

It follows approval by theWorld Health Organisation (WHO)last year, for the widespread use of the vaccines, otherwise known as Mosquirix, to protect children in malaria endemic countries.

Ghana and two other countries; Kenya and Malawi, has since 2019 been piloting the world’s first ever malaria vaccines as an additional tool for the elimination of malaria.

Speaking at the launch of this year’s World Malaria Day (WMD)in Accra yesterday, the Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, said “we are in discussions and preparations to determine where the expansion will initially be depending on the vaccine availability and resources.”

So far, over one million doses of the four-course vaccines have been administered since May 2019 till January this year in 33 districts of six selected regions across the country.

A total of 5.7 million malaria cases were confirmed last year, a marginal increase of 5.1 million cases, recorded in 2020.

Number of admissions due to malaria increased from 308,358 in 2020 to 391,052 last year although in-patient deaths reduced to 275 from 312 recorded in 2020.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye noted the malaria burden did not only affect the health sector but socio-economic growth raising the need to scale up lifesaving interventions like insecticide treated nets, seasonal malaria chemoprevention, indoor residual spraying, vaccination among others to reduce transmission.

“Ghana unfortunately is one of the 10 highest malaria burdened countries in the world. It is for this reason that we need to continue the fight against the disease by mobilising resources domestically and work with partners like the private sector and parliament of Ghana to push the agenda and eventually win,” he said.

The National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) Manager, Dr KeziahMalm, said although the entire population was at risk of malaria, the Volta and Western regions had the highest prevalence.

She said a revised National Malaria Strategic Plan (2021-2025) was expected to reduce malaria mortality by 90 percent, case incidence by 50 percent and achieve malaria pre-elimination in at least six selected districts, respectively, by 2025.

DrMalm highlighted challenges including funding, limited logistics for malaria prevention and control, non-usage of insecticide treated nets and non-adherence to treatment protocols as impeding the fight against malaria.

Pointing out a funding gap of about $412 million to fully implement the strategic plan, the programme manager held that elimination of malaria by 2030 was feasible provided all hands were on deck to make adequate resources available.

“We need continuous support of all to implement activities as scheduled for best possible outcomes; the public must use the proven interventions available to prevent malaria, the private sector must support the funding gap and adopt interventions in their catchment communities to reduce malaria,” she urged.

Commemorated every April 25, this year’s WMD is on the global theme; “Harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives” but Ghana is marking the occasion on the theme; “Advance equity: build resilience-end malaria.”

Other activities scheduled include a grand durbar at Hohoe in the Volta Region, symposium, a health walk and public sensitisation as well as an awards ceremony to mark the occasion.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites, transmitted through the bite of an infective female anopheles mosquito.

Its symptoms may include fever, headaches, a sensation of cold with shivering, vomiting and high temperature among others.

BY ABIGAIL ANNOH        

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