General News of Wednesday, 25 February 2004
Accra, Feb 25, GNA - Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director-General of the Ghana Health Services (GHS) on Wednesday said every child must be immunized against Polio in the forthcoming immunization exercise, warning that legal action would be taken against any individual or organisation that would prevent a child from being immunized.
He said it was within the laws of Ghana that all children under five years old in each house or community should be immunized against polio to guarantee that Ghana became polio free.
Prof Akosa, who was speaking at a press briefing to launch the campaign that would commence on Friday February 27 to Sunday February 29 2004, said every child has the right to get that protection at every available opportunity.
A total of 5.1 million children in every corner of the country would receive two drops of the polio vaccine that would be carried to households by 42,000 volunteers during the exercise under the theme: " Kick Polio Out of Ghana".
The second round would be held from March 26 to 28, 2004. Professor Akosa said though Ghana was free of polio in 2001 and 2002, she imported eight wild polioviruses from neighbouring countries last year, putting the children of Ghana at risk again.
He said this requires the highest level of response from Government and the communities as Ghana and the whole of West Africa launched the Pan-Regional Immunization Campaign against polio.
The Director-General said all vaccines had been procured for the exercise, adding that though they met the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, the vaccines had been re-tested at the Noguchi Memorial Institute to confirm its efficacy and safety.
He said the GHS had met with all organisations, especially those churches that refused the children the right to be immunized, adding that there was no cause for alarm, "if, however, that scenario arose, legal action would be taken".
Professor Akosa said polio was acquired through poor environmental sanitation and personal hygiene, pointing out that houses that were built without toilet facilities had contributed immensely to this.
He said there was no justification for a house not to have toilet facilities, adding that public toilets which most of these houses depended on, were built for strangers, but were being overstretched by residents of these houses.
He said a nationwide campaign on environmental sanitation would soon be launched by the Ghana School of Hygiene, and appealed to the public to take the current one on the need to wash hands with soap after using the toilet seriously.
Dr Kwadwo Odei Antwi-Agyei, National Programme Manager on Immunization, said the immunization programme had prevented about five million cases of disability due to polio, adding that the annual savings of polio eradication in direct costs alone were estimated to be 1.5 billion dollars.
He said Ghana recorded the highest of 21 cases in 1998 and one in 2000, adding that the objective of the campaign was to eradicate the disease totally from the country and the West Africa Sub-Region. Dr Antwi-Agyei said a lot of monitoring would be done to ensure the success of the programme.
Vice President Aliu Mahama in a press release appealed to households to open their doors for vaccinators to protect every child under five years against polio, adding that their actions would impact on other African families across the region.