Ghana plans to include malaria vaccine in EPI

Ghana has started some preparatory discussions and arrangements, locally and on the international scene, to ensure a smooth roll-out of the  RTS,S experimental vaccine into the country’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), once the vaccine becomes available after licensure.

The expansion and availability of cold chain storage facilities for the vaccine are also taking place as the country prepares to also add the Rota virus and the pneumococcal vaccines to the EPI in 2012.

It forms part of public health efforts to inoculate children against killer diseases. The Rota virus and the pneumococcal vaccines offer protection against severe diarrhea and pneumonia.

These disclosures were made known at a national stakeholders’ dissemination meeting in Kumasi on the clinical trials of the malaria vaccine in Ghana organized by the Kintampo Health Research Centre and the Malaria Research Centre at Agogo, where trials into the RTS,S vaccines are on-going.

Dr Odei Antwi-Agyei, Coordinator of the National EPI, who spoke on the country’s plans to roll out a successful vaccine, told the gathering of scientist, traditional rulers, regulators, media practitioners and funding agencies that the EPI has been involved from the beginning of the trials to ensure that the malaria vaccine will be safe for use by the children when licensed for use by the World Health Organization and the Food and Drugs Board.

“A strong case has been made for a malaria vaccine in Ghana but the vaccine should not be more dangerous than the disease and therefore we need a good vaccine.”

He said a walking cold chain is being put together for all the 10 regions in Ghana to accommodate the introduction of more vaccines into the EPI list.

Dr Felicia Owusu-Antwi, the WHO Programme Manager on Malaria, said public health impact can only be realized when there is a high country-wide coverage in immunization, preferably 80 per cent.

She said structures and arrangements involving the operational cost of immunizing children country-wide, a monitoring and evaluation system to check on adverse reactions from inoculation, and policy decision are some of the key elements in the determination of adding vaccines to the EPI.

Prof Tsiri Agbenyega, a Principal Investigator on the RTS,S at Agogo and Chairperson on the Clinical Trials Partnership Committee, said “ we don’t have a finished product yet but we need to plan for the vaccine because there is a lot of bargaining to be done and infrastructure to roll it out.”

Dr  Kwaku Poku Asante, a Principal Investigator at Kintampo, told the gathering that should the malaria vaccine trials be successful, it “could potentially, reduce high OPD attendance.”

He said data on how long the vaccine will offer protection and how the vaccine will work in different parts of Ghana and Africa will be made available in 2014.

By Eunice Menka

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.