Mr Kweku Agyeman-Manu, Member of Parliament (MP) for Dormaa Central and Minister for Health, has underscored the importance of a nationwide campaign on measles immunisation.


In a key note address delivered on his behalf at the launch of an Integrated National Measles-Rubella Immunisation and Vitamin A Supplementation Campaign in Accra, yesterday, October 11, 2018, Mr Agyeman-Manu said the stage had been set for the elimination of measles in Ghana, adding, however, that elimination was possible, only if population immunity was kept at more than ninety-five percent over long periods through routine immunisation and supplementary immunisation activities.


He noted that although Ghana had seen a reduction in confirmed measles and rubella cases, with no documented death from measles since 2003, about 100,000 children escaped vaccination in routine vaccination every year.


He said these children remained vulnerable and might succumb to the disease, leading to outbreaks that might erode the gains made in the reduction of the disease.


Mr Agyeman-Manu commended the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Church of Christ and Later Day Saints, Coalition of NGOs in Health, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (DCP) and the District Assemblies and community leaderships for supporting a major social mobilisation crusade in support of the immunisation effort against the measles and rubella diseases.


In a statement, Dr Owen Kaluwa, WHO Country Representative in Ghana, noted that routine measles vaccination for children, combined with mass immunisation campaigns in countries with low routine coverage was a key public health strategy to reduce global measles deaths.  


Dr Kaluwa commended the Government of Ghana for the carefully-planned interventions, through its Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), that placed the country as one of the 5 countries in Africa that had achieved the regional target of 95% coverage rate for the first dose measles-rubella vaccination.


Furthermore, he said, the introduction of the second dose vaccination in the second year of life had further improved population immunity against the disease.


He noted that the 2018 Measles-Rubella Vaccination Campaign demonstrated Ghana’s commitment to eliminating measles by the year 2020, in line with the Global Vaccine Action Plan.


He stressed the need for the campaign to reach all children living in hard to access areas of the country and urged the media to ensure the success of the campaign by helping to leave no child behindꟷ in the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Universal Health Coverage. 


In his remarks, Dr Peter Baffoe, a Representative of UNICEF, pledged the continuous support of UNICEF for the efforts of the Government of Ghana to bridge the equity gap for immunisation and other child health interventions through data-driven equity analysis to generate the needed evidence for targeted interventions for underserved groups and communities.


Welcoming participants to the launch, Dr Gloria Quansah, Deputy Director-General, Ghana Health Service (GHS), said Ghana was steadily progressing towards achieving a measles elimination status.


Dr Quansah noted that with an effective routine immunisation programme, leading to persistent high coverage, coupled with a successful measles supplementary immunisation, Ghana would have another success story to share with the rest of the world— the other success story being that for the past 15 years, no child has died from measles in Ghana.


Dr Kwadwo Antwi-Agyei, former Programmes Manager, EPI, and Chairman for the occasion, noted that the 2018 Integrated National Measles-Rubella Immunisation and Vitamin A Supplementation Campaign was unique in that two diseases—measles and rubella—would be prevented with one injection.


Presenting an overview of the measles and rubella diseases in Ghana, Dr George Bonsu, Programme Manager, EPI, said available statistics indicated that measles, one of the most contagious viruses on earth, killed almost 90,000 people, each year globally and was a leading cause of death in children under the age of 5.


Dr Bonsu said available information also indicated that 90% of unvaccinated people exposed to the virus became infected and in the event of complications could result in blindness, deafness, brain damage, malnutrition, pneumonia, diarrhoea and seizures.


In Ghana, according to the records, Dr Bonsu said, measles accounted for 9.3% of paediatric admissions in the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.


Rubella, on the other hand, he said, was the leading cause of birth defects, with women infected during their first trimester of pregnancy having up to a 90% chance of delivering infants with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) - with its concomitant birth defects, including heart disorders, blindness, deafness, small head or brain damage.


Information available, Dr Bonsu said, also indicated that there was an increasing number of measles and rubella cases in the world and, particularly, in Ghana’s neighbouring West African countries which put Ghanaian children at risk of infection.


It was for this reason, he said, that a follow-up vaccination campaign against measles and rubella had been launched.


The campaign, scheduled to take place from October 17 to October 22, 2018, is being organised by the Ministry of Health in partnership with the GHS on the theme: Measles and Rubella Kill. Vaccinate your child now for Good Life.


The campaign aims to maintain the gains in reduced measles morbidity and mortality achieved in the country over the years.


Under the campaign, all children 9 months to 59 months in Ghana, totalling 4, 776, 247, will receive a dose of measles and rubella vaccine, irrespective of past immunisation.


The children will also receive an extra dose of measles and rubella vaccine available through a quality supplemental immunisation to reduce the proportion of susceptible children in the country, rapidly, prevent measles and rubella outbreaks, and, in the context of high routine  immunisation coverage, eliminate indigenous measles contamination.       


Source: ISD (G.D. Zaney, Esq.)