Vaccine shortage: A wake-up call for dedicated fund, robust risk communication for quality assurance
For the first time in the history of childhood immunization in Ghana, disturbing news from the Ministry of Health indicated that key live saving vaccine, notably Measles Rubella and the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) are in short supply.
A worrying development that is likely to derail the significant gains made over the years that has placed Ghana on the global stage as one of the top achievers in vaccine deployment and coverage.
Whiles commending the Ghana Health Service, the Ministry of Health and its partners such as UNICEF-Ghana, Global Vaccine Alliance for ensuring smooth implementation of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), RISE-Ghana notes with grave concern the recent development and wish to bring to the urgent attention of stakeholders to the following concerns:
1. The Government of Ghana/Ministry of Finance should immediately set-up a dedicated account for revenues accruing from the COVID-19 levy to serve as an emergency fund in line with the resource pooling function under the health strengthening systems approach.
2. Activate strong partnerships between Civil Society, Government, Private Sector and Development partners to roll out a risk communication and education programme to maintain vaccine confidence and mitigate the potential fear and panic.
3. Whiles it is refreshing that, the much-awaited and novel National Vaccine Institute Bill has been approved by parliament awaiting Presidential assent, we wish to emphasize that, the GHANA CHILD CANNOT WAIT and we cannot afford to a lose a single child due to this current shortage of much-needed vaccines.
4. As the first country in the world to sign on the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCR), Ghana must make good her moral and legal obligation to uphold and promote “the best interest of the child” in all aspects and especially during this difficult times of global vaccine stress.
5. The call for public health emergency fund championed by Civil Society groups such as SEND-Ghana should be given the urgent and highest level political will it deserves.
6. Lastly, the current trend should be a wake-up call for a national discourse on urgent proposals for Ghana to, in the words of his Excellency President Akuffo Addo “we can produce our own vaccines locally”.
7. We commend the gallant health workforce and stakeholders for their sustained commitment to maintaining the gains over the years.
Awal Ahmed Kariama
Executive Director for Rise Ghana