Ghana to introduce Hepatitis ‘B’ birth dose vaccine by 2024

Ghana will in 2024 introduce a Hepatitis B birth dose vaccine to protect newborns and prevent the prevalence of the disease in the country, the Ghana Health Service (GHS), has said.

Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, Director-General GHS, said plans were far advanced to ensure that there were enough vaccines, the population was prepared, and the appropriate systems and structures in place ahead of the take-off.

“These things are programmed areas so there need to be enough vaccines, we need to prepare the population, we need to prepare the systems and have the structures to deliver them, and that is what we are working on and we hope that we will be able to initiate that next year just like other countries are doing,” he said.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye said this at the press launch of the 2023 World Hepatitis Day on the theme: “One Liver, One Life”.

The Day is celebrated annually on July 28, to highlight the need to accelerate the prevention of viral hepatitis and to influence effective change.

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver and commonly caused by a viral infection.

The five main viral classifications of hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E with different viruses responsible for each type of viral hepatitis.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3,000 people die every day of liver disease caused by viral hepatitis with almost 90 per cent of people living with viral hepatitis unaware they have it.

“If this global trajectory continues, viral hepatitis will kill more people annually than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined by 2040,” the Director-General said.

He said hepatitis diagnosis and treatment, both globally and locally in Ghana, continued to remain exceptionally low.

“Only 10 per cent of people with chronic Hepatitis B (HBV) are diagnosed, of which only 22 per cent receive treatment.

“For Hepatitis C, only 21 per cent of people with the infection are diagnosed, with 62 per cent of those diagnosed receiving treatment.”

Dr Kuma-Aboagye said Hepatitis awareness in Ghana continued to be low, and urged the public not to wait, but get tested for the disease to know their status for early treatment.

Other initiatives to embark on include the implementation of the triple elimination of Hepatitis ‘B’ along with HIV and Syphilis in 2024 and expanding the antenatal service package to include testing pregnant women for HBV.

“I urge the media to sensitise the public to know their hepatitis status and seek treatment as well as embark on lifestyle changes such as reducing alcohol intake, losing excess weight, treating hypertension, and managing diabetes,” he added.

Dr Atsu Godwin Seake-Kwawu, Programme Manager, National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme, GHS, presenting on the viral hepatitis situation in Ghana, said it was essential to increase interventions to deal with the hepatitis virus.

He said Ghana in 2015, recorded 12.3 per cent of chronic hepatitis B, 1.5 million new infections, and a total of 820,000 deaths with six million on treatment.

In 2019, 3.3 per cent was also recorded for chronic hepatitis C, 1.5 million new infections, 299,000 deaths, and 9.4 million on treatment.

He said, in 2022, the hepatitis ‘B’ burden in pregnancy was dominant in the Northern region with 17.5 per cent in the Northeast in a serosurvey conducted.

Dr Seake-Kwaku said it was, therefore, important to increase prevention, testing, and link to cure, treatment, and chronic care as the cost of medication for treatment was expensive.

Mr. Theobald Owusu-Ansah, a Representative of the Hepatitis Coalition of Ghana, called on the government to intervene in the cost of treating hepatitis in the country.

He said the initiative to introduce the birth dose vaccine was laudable, but the government needed to come to the aid of persons living with the condition to get the required treatment.

The World Hepatitis Day celebration would be commemorated with health screening exercises and education across the regions.

 Source: GNA

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