In the past few months, Ghana has seen a shortage of vaccines needed to immunise children against the six killer childhood diseases, including measles, tuberculosis, and polio.
According to the government, the vaccines in short supply across the whole of Ghana include Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), Measles-Rubella (MR), and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV).
One would imagine that the government will come up with a clear reason for the shortage of these essential vaccines to find a solution. But as has been the case over the past few years, there are inconsistencies on the part of the government regarding the reasons for the shortage.
The Minister for Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, has given a reason for the vaccine shortage, and the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, has given a different reason. The deputy ministers of the Health Ministry are also reported to have given different reasons for the shortage when they appeared before Parliament’s Select Committee on Health.
What the Director-General of Ghana Health Service said about vaccine shortage:
The Director-General of the GHS, Dr. Kuma-Aboagye, is reported to have said in an interview on Citi FM on February 24, 2023, that the shortage in childhood vaccines is a result of the depreciation of the Ghanaian currency.
According to him, because of the depreciation of the cedi, the amounts budgeted by the government to purchase the vaccines have become insufficient.
“There are three key traditional vaccines that we ran out towards the end of the year. We were to procure the first quarter of 2023’s consignment in the fourth quarter of 2022, but due to currency fluctuations, the amount of funds that were available in cedis could not meet up.
“So, orders are being made now, and we expect that within the next two to three weeks, we will be able to catch up,” Dr Kuma-Aboagye is quoted to have said by graphic.com.gh.
What the Minister for Health said about vaccine shortage:
Addressing the press at a briefing in Accra on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu said that the shortage of vaccines is not peculiar to Ghana.
According to him, vaccines are in short supply globally because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this fact, he said, has been confirmed by the Word Heath Organisation (WHO).
He explained that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most vaccine manufacturing firms diverted their resources to the production of COVID-19 vaccines, which is now affecting the supply chain of vaccines for the immunisation of children.
“… it is true we have had some vaccine shortages in the country since the last quarter of 2022. The vaccines in short supply are BCG, Measles-Rubella (MR), and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). This shortage is nationwide.
“The recent shortage in vaccines for measles, as regrettable as it is, is symptomatic of the steady global decline in measles vaccination since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
The minister also refuted assertions that the vaccine shortages were because the government owed arrears to suppliers.
What GHS and Deputy Health Minister told Parliament:
The Ranking Member of Parliament’s Select Committee on Health, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, affirmed the reason for the vaccine shortage given by the director-general of the GHS.
According to him, the deputy health ministers, the GHS and the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), stated, when they appeared before the Health Committee of Parliament, that the reason for the vaccine shortage was the depreciation of the cedi.
But, Mintah Akandoh has posited that the real reason for the shortage of vaccines is that the government has defaulted on the payment to the suppliers, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).
What is the exact reason for the shortage of childhood vaccines?:
The recent arrival of vaccines in the country punches holes in the global shortage explanation given by the minister of health.
The Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has alleged that the consignment of vaccines Ghana recently received to help with the shortage of vaccines for the immunisation of children was received from Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
According to the MP, the government was left with no choice but to beg her West African neighbours for the vaccines, which it will return in the future.
He questioned how Nigeria had excess vaccine to donate to Ghana if there was a global shortage.
“Ghanaians shall not accept fabrications, ineptitude, mediocrity & leadership failure.
“If there was truly a global shortage of childhood vaccines, how did Nigeria (despite their population) have excess supply to bail out Ghana? Why’re others not in the same predicament as Ghana?” he quizzed.
The government is yet to respond to the claim of the MP.