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Health News of Tuesday, 29 June 2021


Vaccine procurement challenges could hamper growth forecast – World Bank

Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang Manu receiving the first batch of 16,000 Sputnik vaccines Health Minister Kwaku Agyemang Manu receiving the first batch of 16,000 Sputnik vaccines

Country Director of World Bank, Pierre Frank Laporte, has said that the economy stands the risk of not growing as fast as projected, should the vaccine rollout not go according to plan, especially, now that countries are in a scramble for them, owing to excess demand over supply.

The World Bank projects the economy to grow at 4.5 percent for the year, lower than government’s target of 5 percent as forecast in the 2021 budget. However, Mr. Laporte says that projection could be thwarted if the challenges of procuring vaccines persist for long time.

“At this point in time, we are projecting a growth of about 4.5 percent which is faster than we initially projected. I don’t think there has been much disruption in Ghana [with regards to the COVID-19], partly because we had known way before that our vaccine funding will come around this time.

But what will be critical is how fast we can deliver this? How efficient can the Ministry of Health and the World Bank team get things moving such as the procurement of the vaccines at the right prices etc. Should this happen, I don’t expect any disruption on growth forecast.

But should things not go according to plan, or should the vaccine roll out not go well, the risk of the reemergence of COVID will be higher and if that happens, we all know what the consequences will be – slowdown in economic activities etc,” he said in an interaction with the media in Accra last week.

His comments come on the back of the Bretton Woods institution approving a US$200 million second additional funding for the Ghana COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Project which is expected to provide financing for the procurement of vaccines for some 13 million people in the country.

The second tranche of the financing, according to the bank, has become necessary due to the country experiencing a surge in infections and fatalities in January 2021, entering a second wave of rising infections of COVID-19. The number of daily active cases in February 2021 was as high as the peak of the first wave in June 2020.

Furthermore, Ghana was also confirmed to have recorded the COVID-19 variant, which first appeared in South Africa. And quite recently, it is also reported the country has confirmed cases of the deadly Indian variant.

According to the Ghana Health Service, the number of active cases of the virus as of June 22, 2021 is 1,362. Overall, 95,369 people have been infected with the disease, with 795 deaths. And more than 852,000 vaccines have been administered as of May 7, 2021.

The Ghana COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Project Second Additional Financing will enable the country to explore the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines from a range of sources to support Ghana’s target to vaccinate 17.5 million people in a way that ensures value-for-money.

The project will also support an equitable and effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in line with Ghana’s National Vaccine Deployment Plan.

The project, the banks said, will also strengthen the resilience of Ghana’s health systems to better prepare for the future pandemic and to secure the continuation of essential health and nutrition services, including routine childhood immunization.

Commenting in a press release after the approval of the facility, Mr. Laporte explained what moved the bank to make such facility available for the country, despite the mounting public debt worsened by the pandemic.

“The World Bank is happy to support this second additional financing, given the importance of preventing deaths and reducing transmission of COVID-19 among the population by providing access to COVID-19 vaccines towards accelerating economic and social recovery in Ghana.

We are also aware of the continuing difficulties in having access to COVID-19 vaccines and logistics due to the global vaccine market challenges and will continue to work to address the inequity in vaccine supplies that is impacting Ghana and other developing countries,” he said.