The Navrongo Health Research Centre (NHRC) in the Kassena-Nankana Municipality of the Upper East Region is monitoring 4000 children in the Municipality for adverse effects from the new malaria vaccine being piloted through the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI).
The children are under close monitoring by the Centre since May 2019 when the malaria vaccine was introduced into the EPI, and were monitored for adverse effects and episodes of malaria.
They are compared to same number of children in the Builsa District who did not receive the malaria vaccine.
Dr Patrick Ansah, the Head of Clinical Science Department of the NHRC disclosed this in an interview with Journalists at Navrongo on the sidelines of the Annual General and Scientific review meeting of the Centre.
The meeting was on the theme, “Shaping health policies in Ghana through quality health research; the story of NHRC, three decades on.”
He said NHRC recruited 4,000 more children in another study in the area before the implementation of the malaria vaccine, to get baseline data on vaccine adverse effects, malaria and other rare diseases.
Dr Ansah indicated that the study would last for five years, and said children in the Kassana-Nankana Municipality would be vaccinated as part of the pilot programme of the EPI, “But we are picking only 4,000 of them to do this observational monitoring.”
He said “we enrolled them at the time they were taking the EPI vaccine and we are following them for the past nine to 10 months. As they take the vaccine, we visit them to look at adverse effects.”
Dr Ansah said there was the need to strengthen pharmacovigilance reporting in Ghana and other African countries, where people rarely reported problems they encountered after taking drugs or vaccines.
He said in looking out for the effectiveness of the vaccine, the Centre would compare the children to their counterparts, who were not vaccinated, adding that after the comparison, they would be able to inform government about the safety of the vaccine.
“When we finish this five-year study and all turns out successful, government will then allow all children in Ghana to take the vaccine,” he said.
Similarly, Dr Ansah said the Kintampo Research Centre also selected about 6000 children in Kintampo and would monitor them for any side effects of the vaccine and indicated that “there are more children in Kenya and Malawi, where the World Health Organisation (WHO) has allowed the vaccine to be used.”
“Aside this, one that the Research Centres are doing, we have the Ministry of Health in conjunction with World Health Organisation deploying this vaccine in children in the Volta, Brong Ahafo and Central Regions as part of the pilot implementation of the malaria vaccine in Ghana and sub-Saharan
“So hopefully in the next three or four years, we will be able to come out with comprehensive information on whether the vaccine is really effective and very safe. So far I can tell you that it is very safe, over 8,000 doses have been given in Navrongo alone and we have not recorded any major issue.”
Dr Ansah said even though the vaccine was the main programme, the NHRC was working on, there were other studies they concentrated on, and hinted that his outfit had completed studies on another anti-malaria drug that formed part of the next line of drugs targeting malaria elimination globally.