Dr Charity Sarpong, the Greater Accra Regional Health Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has said the Region is set to begin round-one of the Poliomyelitis (Polio) Response Vaccination exercise, starting today, September 25 to 28, 2019, across the 29 districts of the Greater Accra Region.
She said it would be required that all children between ages zero to 59 months are given doses of the polio vaccine regardless of their immunization status.
Dr Sarpong was speaking at a stakeholder’s meeting in Accra, to outline the planned strategies and activities put in place by the GHS, to prevent an outbreak of the poliovirus among children in the Region.
She assured the public that the polio vaccine was very safe, effective and will boost children’s immune system, adding that “it does not matter the number of times a child receives the vaccine, it will cause him or her no harm at all. In fact the more the doses the better the protection.”
She explained that coverage for the initial round of the response vaccination exercise(Round-Zero), which commenced from September 11 to 14, 2019, was about 99.8 per cent, but it is hoped that, the next round would see a 100 per cent coverage to ensure that no child is left behind.
She mentioned some of the challenges faced during the initial exercise. She said some schools refused to release the children to be immunized, and hoped that they do not encounter similar challenges in the Round-One.
Dr Sarpong explained that apart from the fact that Polio is a deadly disease, it could also cause permanent paralysis in children, and that the illness still remained a threat to global health, as there were outbreaks in 12 African countries in addition to Pakistan and Syria, hence the need to ensure that no child was left from being immunized.
She said Ghana has over the last 10 years, enjoyed a Polio free status and maintained high immunization coverage against the disease using OPV and IPV, however on August 17, 2019, a case of Polio was confirmed in the Northern Region.
To ensure Ghana’s effort to sustain the gains towards the global end game strategy against polio, environmental surveillance for poliovirus was established at 10 sites in 2016 to supplement Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance, she said.
Dr Sarpong said it was through these sustained surveillance and environmental sampling systems, that the Type 2 circulating poliovirus was confirmed on July 8, 2019 from a drain in Koblimahgu in the Northern Region, and that the strain was linked to one isolated case of AFP in Nigeria in 2018.
She said the situation resulted in enhanced surveillance and active case search which led to the discovery of a case in a two years-eight months old girl at Chereponi, in the Northern Region on August 17, 2019.
She said in order to prevent further transmission, a comprehensive response that included advocacy, communication and social mobilization on vaccination and environmental hygiene is being intensified, and the media and all other stakeholders, should help to intensify the awareness campaign, to enable mothers see the need to vaccinate their children, even if they had been immunized previously.
Dr Luiz Amoussou, Deputy Director of Public Health, said the round-one polio response vaccination exercise would also be conducted in some other regions in the country including the Northern, North East, Upper East and Savannah Regions.
He said the efforts being made by the GHS currently could be termed as preventive against any poliovirus outbreaks, and that it does not replace the routine National Immunization Days or scheduled programmes for children.