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24 July 2017

Hundreds of newborns at risk of polio as vaccine shortage hits country

Hundreds of newborn babies are at risk of contracting polio, one of the six killer disease,  as health facilities across the country ran out of the important vaccine.

The shortage has been necessitated by government’s high indebtedness to UNICEF, the international body that procures the critical vaccine.

The vaccine has been very successful at curbing polio among infants.

Director-General at the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Anthony Nsiah Asare, revealed recently that Ghana has cleared some of the debts owed to UNICEF, assuring that the vaccine will soon arrive in the country.

Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare told Joy News’ Matilda Wemegah that government has already made a payment of 3.4 million dollars to UNICEF.

“I am reliably informed, I have the documentation, that the money has hit the accounts of UNICEF. 

“So we have paid the [for the vaccines that we need] for the whole of this year and next year,” he said.

The Ghana Health Service official also explained that Ghana usually receives vaccine supply that could last for about a year, however, UNICEF has resolved to hold on to the supplies until Ghana clears outstanding debts.

Meanwhile, he is assuring mothers that the vaccines will be the country in the coming days.

“What we are waiting for is the airlifting of the vaccines to Ghana…We are working around the clock. I want to assure everybody – those who took their babies for vaccination and could not get it – hopefully [Monday] the vaccines will be in,” he said.

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus and mainly affects children under 5 years of age. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours.

The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (for example, contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1 in 200 infections lead to irreversible paralysis. It adds that among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

WHO adds that failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.

In Ghana since the outbreak of polio in 2008, no such cases have been recorded in the country as of 2015.

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