The recent measles outbreak was not the cause of any child deaths, according to Mr. Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, the health minister.
The Minister stated that although there was a measles outbreak, there had not been any deaths since 2003 and none had been reported as of yet.
“It is important to correct the erroneous impression that there have been deaths from Measles in Ghana recently. For the avoidance of doubt, there have been no deaths from the recently recorded spike in Measles cases. Indeed, there have been no deaths since 2003, though we have recorded cases annually,” Mr. Agyemang- Manu said.
He made the comments at a press briefing organised by the Ministry of Information in Accra yesterday.
The presser was used to address the recent shortage of vaccines and the outbreak of Measles in some parts of the country.
It was also necessitated by agitations from sections of the public, including the Minority Caucus in Parliament.
Earlier, the Minority Caucus on the Health Committee of Parliament addressed the Parliamentary Press Corps and expressed disappointment at the Ministry for allowing measles vaccines to be in short supply.
The Ranking Member of the Committee, Mr. Kwabena Mintah-Akandoh, said the Caucus was appalled at the situation, because all the monies that were usually appropriated in the budget for the purchase of vaccines was accordingly given to the appropriate authority during the 2023 appropriation.
He said that in the 2023 Budget, an amount of GH¢72 million was allocated to the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), which liaised with the Ministry to procure the vaccines.
Mr. Akandoh said an interaction with the NIA revealed that the money had been released for the purchase of vaccines.
He, therefore, expressed his shock as to why the vaccines were in short supply.
The second reason Mr. Akandoh gave for the Minority’s agitation was that out of the thirteen vaccines that were administered to children, the Government of Ghana completely funds only three of them, namely Tetanus, Measles and Polio.
He said the remaining ten vaccines were co-financed by Gavi. Hence, he questioned why the government could not commit to the financing of only three vaccines.
Mr. Akandoh noted yesterday that since Ghana had attained middle income status, Gavi was considering withdrawing its financial support for vaccines.
The Ranking Member wondered how Ghana could fund the purchase of all thirteen vaccines when it could barely purchase only three.
Addressing the issue of Explaining why vaccine shortage, Mr. Agyemang-Manu admitted that there has indeed been a shortage of some vaccines in the since the last quarter of 2022.
He said the particular vaccines that are in short supply are BCG, Measles-Rubella (MR) and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV).
He attributed the shortage of these vaccines to a steady global decline in vaccines especially that of Measles.
“The recent shortage in Vaccines for measles, as regrettable as it is, is symptomatic of the steady global decline in measles vaccination since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic,” the Minister said.
He, however, indicated that the Ministry would ensure that there were adequate vaccines in the coming weeks.
“We have made all necessary efforts to ensure that despite these challenges we secure adequate stocks within the next few weeks,” the Minister said.
Responding to the issue of GH¢72 million having been paid for the purchase of vaccines, Mr Agyemang-Manu admitted that indeed the NHIA had transferred an amount of GH¢71m to the Ministry for the purchase of vaccines. He said the Ministry has also ensured that the money has been paid to the appropriate authorities in charge of the supply of vaccines so there is no issue with finances.
He also discarded the claims that Gavi would withdraw its financial support to Ghana. The Minister said Gavi is impressed with the work done by Ghana so far and will even be hosting one of its meetings in the country soon.
The Minister concluded by assuring the country that the Ministry will ensure that it stays on track with Ghana’s immunization record and quickly overcome the bottlenecks.