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Ghana introduces two new vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhoea

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The Ministry of Health in Ghana has introduced two new vaccines to make Ghanaian children healthier and help achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) 4, which aims at reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

They are the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, which protects children from pneumonia and diarrhoea respectively, in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

The rotavirus vaccine prevents severe diarrhoeal diseases, which come with signs and symptoms as fever, vomiting and shock, leading to death.

It is spread through the faeco-oral route and caused by eating or putting items contaminated with faeces into the mouth.

The vaccines are given in two doses, a month apart. The first is given when the child is six weeks old and the second dose at 10 weeks.

The Ministry announced the introduction of the vaccines at a media briefing.

Experts say its side effects are rare but few occurrences have been reported, which include diarrhoea, irritability/crying, fever and abdominal pains in rare cases.

Pneumonia on the other hand, is the single largest cause of death in children worldwide, more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

It is caused by the pneumoccous bacterium. The most common type of pneumococcal infections include middle ear infections, sinus infections, pneumonia and meningitis and spread through airborne droplet from cough or sneeze.

Its symptoms are rapid or difficult breathing, coughs, chills, loss of appetite and wheezing.

The vaccine is administered as an injection to infants in three doses, a month apart, on the right thigh. The schedule is six, 10 and 14 weeks.

All children are, therefore, eligible including the immune compromised children; children with minor illnesses are not contraindicated and can be vaccinated.

This represents an important advancement for public health in Ghana because children under five years, especially those between six months and two years are the most vulnerable to the disease,” Dr Kwadwo Odei Antwi-Agyei, National Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) said at a press briefing in Accra to introduce the vaccines.

The vaccines have been made available to Ghana with the support of over $35 million from GAVI Alliance, a global partnership dedicated to improving world health by ensuring access to immunisation in developing nations.

Dr Antwi-Agyei explained that Ghana needed the vaccines because globally one-third of the over 1.3 million children deaths under five each year was due to rotavirus, while an estimated 1.4 million children under five die due to pneumococcal diseases.

In Ghana, diarrhoeal diseases are among the top three causes of death among children under five, he said, and explained that the vaccination is the most effective and cost effective way of dealing with the two diseases.

Acting Director General of Ghana Health Service, Dr Frank Nyonator, noted that vaccines were cost effective and that with the exception of providing good drinking water, no other health intervention was as effective as immunisation in reducing diseases and mortality rates.

Source: GNA

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