Ghana has been vigorously pursuing interventions to ensure that the gains made in polio eradication efforts are sustained. However, the confirmed cases of polio outbreaks this year, 2019, in Cheriponi district of the North East region, Tamale metro in the Northern region and Agbogbloshie in the Greater Accra region constitute a setback for Ghana in contributing to achieving a polio-free world by 2021.
SEND GHANA in a statement signed by Emmanuel Ayifah (PHD), the Deputy Country Director of SEND GHANA, and copied to News Ghana on Tuesday 24th December, 2019, said its aware of the government’s actionable interventions in the wake of the outbreak to remedy the situation, including “mapping out areas at risk and conducting reactive vaccination campaigns in the affected areas and adjoining high-risk districts, as well as, undertaking nationwide vaccination for all children born from January 2016 to June 2018.”
The statement also noted, “This infinitely prevented the disease from escalating to irrepressible proportions, and we commend the government for the progress made.
However, we are deeply concerned about the government’s apparent lack of commitment to the co-financing agreement of immunization with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and immunization (GAVI).
For example, in 2016, the government defaulted in its co-financing obligation to GAVI. In 2017, the government reneged on its co-financing commitment, and only honored after UNICEF threatened not to supply the vaccines to GAVI. Again in 2018, the government defaulted.
Our analysis of the 2020 budget statement and economic policy reveals that seven years into exiting from the co-financing agreement of immunization with GAVI, the budget is silent on government’s intentions for immunization financing.
For the first time since 2012, there has been a complete absence of a dedicated budget line for immunization financing in the budget statement. This is worrying considering government’s constant defaulting of co-financing obligation to GAVI.
Also, this is likely to offset the country’s enviable coverage record of 98% of Penta 3 and other vaccines should GAVI reneged on its part of the obligation too. Government should clearly show its commitment to transition from counterpart funding to full self-financing of routine immunization activities by ensuring sustained increase in domestic financing for immunization.
This would ensure that the country does not lose millions of cedis to address the outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases. We also recommend that, government should consider earmarking immunization financing just like NHIS.
One key challenge identified in the Extended Programme on Immunization (EPI) 2018 performance report is inadequate cold chain at the sub-district level.
The 2020 budget is overly focused on Last Mile Distribution (LMD) at the regional centers. Polio is a highly infectious viral disease and its prevention and eradication primarily hinge on vaccinations. In this regard, government should find space in the limited goods and services allocation to provide cold chain facilities to all facilities at the sub-district level.
This will boost immunization outreach services to all children leading to the prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases.
It is also imperative for government to adequately resource health facilities along the country’s borders with the required vaccines and logistics to prevent the spread and transmission of the polio virus from citizens of neighboring countries, who due to political and economic upheavals migrate from their home countries to seek asylum in Ghana.”