Ghana’s Minister of Health Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh, said the country has not recorded any deaths of measles since 2002 and that laboratory investigations had also confirmed a decrease of the disease from 101 cases in 2009 to 36 in 2010.
Mr Chireh said no cases of wild polio virus was also reported since its outbreak in 2008 due to concerted efforts from health partners, adding Ghana was expecting to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) criteria for polio free certification soon.
He said this at the commemoration of the first African vaccination week on Wednesday in Accra under the theme: “Put Mothers and Children First: Vaccinate and Stop Polio Now”.
Mr Chireh said the week sought to strengthen Ghana’s immunization programme by raising awareness on the value and importance of immunization, increasing vaccination coverage and uptake of new and existing vaccines and prioritizing service provision for hard-to-reach areas.
He said the establishment of the week was in response to a resolution adopted by Ministers of Health at the sixtieth session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in 2010 to institutionalize an annual African Vaccination Week for sustaining advocacy and improving immunization service delivery.
Mr Chireh explained that the aim was in compliance with the 4th Millennium Development Goal (MDG4) in ensuring full immunization of children less than one year of age at the level of 90 per cent nationally with at least 80 per cent coverage in every district.
He said Ghana had made strides since the introduction of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in 1978.
Mr Chireh said between 1978 and 1992, measles, Oral Polio Vaccine and Diphtheria Pertusis Tetanus (DPT) were vaccines used in the routine immunization services.
He said currently, Ghana vaccinate children under one year against nine childhood diseases namely: tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza type b, measles and yellow fever.
Mr Chireh said government was on the verge of introducing pneumococcal vaccine, which protected against pneumonia and rota virus vaccine, which protected against diarrhoea into its routine immunization.
Dr Daniel Kertesz, WHO Representative in Ghana, said in Africa, more than 3 million children had still not received vaccines.
Dr Kertesz noted that in Ghana last year, over 120,000 children did not receive all the lifesaving vaccines needed.
He admonished teachers, local chiefs, political and religious leaders and health workers and said all have a responsibility to promote the awareness of vaccination in their various platforms.
Professor Francis Nkrumah, the Chairman for the occasion, said there was still work to be done in Africa to raise the level of protection, particularly in communities where there were pockets of susceptible and vulnerable child population.
Prof Nkrumah said some of the challenges of the programme included finance, sustaining 90 per cent coverage of vaccination and reaching the unreached population and urged all partners to get involved in solving the problems.
Dr Nana K.O Antwi-Agyei, Program Manager of EPA, said in 2006, 420 suspected cases of measles were reported with 81 cases confirmed representing 19.8 per cent while in 2007, 588 suspected cases were reported with six cases confirmed, which represented 1.0 per cent .
Dr Antwi-Agyei said some of the causes of under-five mortality in Ghana included diarrhoea, malaria, measles, AIDS and malnutrition and indicated that one million African children death could be prevented with existing vaccine today.