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Ghana to scale up malaria vaccine administration

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The Ghana Health Service (GHS) says it is preparing to scale up the administration of RTS, S malaria vaccines to other parts of the country.

Dr Patrick Kuma Aboagye, Director General of the Service said in Accra on Wednesday that the pilot, which ended in January this year would be expanded to other districts in the next few months.

He was speaking at the launch of this year’s World Malaria Day, slated for April 25 at Hohoe on the theme, “Advance Equity, Build Resilience, End Malaria.”

Dr Aboagye said the pilot would be done with the support of the central government and development partners to ensure that more children were protected from the disease.

“We are still in discussions and preparations to determine where the expansion will be, depending on vaccine availability and resources in Ghana,” he said.

On April 30, 2019, a pilot project for the vaccination of children with the RST, S malaria vaccine was launched in Ghana and piloted in the Brong Ahafo, Central, Volta regions and some districts in the Upper East region.

Ghana, during the pilot, from May 2019 to January 2022, administered a total of 1,051,820 doses of the four dose RST, S malaria vaccine.

In October 2021, the vaccine was endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for “broad use” in children, making it the first malaria vaccine to receive this recommendation.

Dr Aboagye said presently, the world kept battling malaria, putting a huge strain on health infrastructure, and hindering the uptake of interventions for other health conditions.

Malaria, he said remained a significant public health concern in Ghana, despite progress made in the fight.

“In Ghana, Malaria is the number one cause of outpatient attendances and occurs throughout the year with varying transmission across the months in the year,”.

In 2021 there were 5,733,013 confirmed malaria cases and 391,052 admissions recorded in public health facilities.

He said Ghana was one of the 10 highest countries burdened with malaria, the burden was not only felt in the health sector but in other sectors as well incurring great social and economic burdens.

The Director General said despite progress made in the containment of the disease, there was the need for Ghana to mobilise resources to scale up proven interventions equitably to those who needed them.

“We as a country need to build resilience, which will entail building systems and strategies that are sustainable beyond donor support and eventually end malaria,” he said.

Dr Keziah Malam, Program Manager, National Malaria Control Program, said the entire population was as risk as malaria contributed to the highest disease expenditure on the National health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

She said presently, malaria was highly prevalent in five districts – Shia Osudoku, Ablekuma Central, Hohoe, Ayawaso West, Tema West and Asokwa and had been earmarked for pre- elimination activities.

These include Intermittent Prevention Treatment in Pregnancy, Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention, RTS, S Vaccine and Integrated Vector Control initiatives.

Dr Malam said Ghana had made strides in reducing malaria deaths from 599 in 2017 to 275 in 2022.

She said increased investment and commitment from the private sector, government and the public sector was critical to revitalising progress against malaria and addressing other health challenges.

Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a plasmodium parasite and transmitted through a bite from a female anopheles mosquito.

Source: GNA

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