Health News of Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Ghana close to eradicating poliomyelitis

A child being immunised at the function

Ghana is close to eradicating poliomyelitis which kills or cripples children for life, the Minister of Health, Mr Alex Segbefia, has stated.

He said the country’s polio eradication interventions, including periodic nationwide polio immunisation and active surveillance activities have yielded positive results.

Since the outbreak of polio in 2008, no case of polio had been recorded in the country as of 2015.

Mr Segbefia said that in a speech read on his behalf at the launch of the 2015 Sub-National Immunisation Days Against Polio.

Regional campaign

The campaign, which will begin from October 22 to 24, 2015, is targeting about 28 million children aged zero to 59 months in all communities in the country, and in the entire West African Sub-region, with Ghana targeting to immune 2.9 million children within the period.

Over 11,000 teams, made up volunteers and vaccinators are expected to be deployed in a house-to-house exercise and at lorry parks, schools and markets to administer the oral polio vaccine to all eligible children.

To prevent possible outbreak of the disease in the West African Sub-region, Ghana will join countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Mali to conduct a synchronised polio vaccination campaign.

The campaign also marks the 50th polio vaccination campaign since it was launched in 1996 in Ghana and it has since administered 196,320,587 doses of polio vaccine for children under five.

No complacency

In spite of the efforts made towards eradicating polio, Mr Segbefia said, “We cannot be complacent; and we cannot afford to relent in the efforts made so far.”

He, therefore, urged district assemblies, religious bodies, traditional leaders, parents and the media to assist and involve themselves in the campaign to save the lives of children from disability or deaths.

In his presentation, the Programme Manager of Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), Dr George Bonsu, said the existence of the polio disease in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan remained a threat to children everywhere.

He added that there were also some children who were not reached with the polio vaccine, hence the need to be on the alert and ensure that all children were vaccinated.

As Ghana marks the 50th anniversary of vaccination campaign, he said it was important to maintain the strides made in polio eradication efforts by preventing the importation of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) into the country.

That, he said, could be realised through strengthening routine immunisation and improving Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance to detect any case of polio in the country.

Global outlook

The World Health Organisation (WHO) representative, Dr Prosper Tumusiime, in his remarks, said, “The world was close to eradicating polio as envisaged with a little more effort.

“As I speak, no country in Africa, including Nigeria, has recorded any case of polio virus in 2015 and this is extremely good news. Globally, there have been only 48 cases reported in 2015 as compared to 202 cases in 2014,” he stated.

As of 2014, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan were the countries that remained polio endemic. The viral disease had been endemic in 125 countries and paralysed about 1000 children per day before the introduction of an eradication initiative.

Ghana commended

Dr Tumusiime applauded the Government of Ghana and all stakeholders in the polio eradication initiative for achieving high routine polio vaccination coverage of 90 per cent at national level over the years.

He also applauded Ghana for breaking transmission of wild polio virus importation in the country since November 2008.

He, therefore, urged the Ghana Health Service to intensify efforts on the surveillance of the AFP, which is an indicator for the eradication of the WPV in the country.