The Ghana Health Service (GHS) on Wednesday, commenced a free nationwide vaccination campaign using the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IVP) to protect all children aged between one year nine months to four years old.
This is because the target group, constituted a key gap in children who never received any vaccination, following the removal of the drug component in the trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (tOPV) due to the global eradication of wild poliovirus type-two in 2015.
Dr Franklin Badu-Sarkodie, the Director of Public Health, GHS, at a media briefing in Accra, said the IVP campaign which would end on February 25, 2020, was targeted at all children born between January 2016 to February 2018.
He said by switching from tOPV to bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) which contained only type one and three serotypes on April 14 2018, Ghana failed to conduct a mop-up for children who were born within the period of withdrawal, and the IPV was only introduced in June 2018, due to the global shortage of the vaccine.
Dr Badu-Sarkodie assured the public of its safety and efficiency of the vaccine to protect children from the disabling and potentially deadly polio disease, and encouraged all parents and caregivers to go to the nearest health facility and ensure that their children were vaccinated during the exercise which was free of charge.
He said Ghana had chalked some successes since it joined the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1996, through vigorous strategies such as Active Surveillance, Improved routine Immunisation, and National Immunisation Days (NID) against polio and Mop-up campaigns recording its last indigenous case of wild polio in the year 2000.
Notwithstanding these, the Health Sector had in the last seven months, confirmed 16 cases of polio type-two, non-wild strain since July 2019, and environmental surveillance samples had tested positive initially in Greater Accra and the Northern Regions, and recently in the Eastern Region.
He said to date 10 out of the 16 regions had been involved, of which all the isolated viruses were similar to a virus isolated from surveillances in Nigeria in 2018.
Dr Badu-Sarkodie stated that the role of IPV in routine Immunisation was to boost population immunity against the type-two poliovirus before withdrawing the OPV, and thanked all health workers, development partners, community volunteers, Traditional and Religious leaders, as well as the media for their contributions over the years.
He said he was optimistic that the current circumstance would not push the country back, but rather further strengthen it in its fight to eradicate polio.
Dr Kwame Amponsah Achiano, the Acting Programme Manager for the Expanded Immunisation Programme, said “approximately 2.4 million population of children in the stipulated age bracket were type-two virus naïve in the midst of this poliovirus strain circulation, and the IPV campaign would ensure better protection from all forms of the disease.
He gave a presentation on Ghana’s history so far, which also featured the experienced imported wild polio outbreak in October 2018 with a total of eight reported cases, and subsequently conducting a total of 50 NIDs with nearly 200 million children vaccinated, as well as mop-up campaigns in poorly covered areas.
Dr Achiano said the emergence of vaccine-derived poliovirus was not as a result of the vaccine itself, but only occur when there was low vaccination coverage over long periods, compound by poor sanitary conditions in many parts of the country.
He encouraged all stakeholders to complement these efforts by promoting good environmental sanitation practices to eliminate the enabling environment for the transmission of polio and other infectious diseases.
Dr Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo, the WHO Country Representative, said polio was a highly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus invading and damaging the central nervous system of an infected person, leading to paralysis or death of an infected child, and although there was no cure, it could be prevented through vaccination.
She said the Global Polio Eradication Initiative on April 2019, launched the Polio Endgame Strategy 2019 to 2023 to guide the programme and its partners to overcome the final hurdles to eradication and move towards sustaining a polio-free future.
The new, plan she said, focused on addressing the present most pressing obstacles to end poliovirus transmission imminently, integrate polio programme resources into health and development programmes globally, and certify the world as polio-free.