The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Parliamentary Minority Caucus has urged the Government to treat the shortage of childhood vaccines in the country as a national emergency.
Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, Ranking Member, Parliament Health Committee and NDC Member of Parliament (MP) for Juaboso, addressing the Parliamentary Press Corps on Tuesday in Accra said the shortage of vaccines for the six childhood killer diseases could best be described as a disaster, which was highly unacceptable.
“Let me state that every child in this country per the 1992 Constitution has the right to good Healthcare,” he stated.
He said in some areas, it was even a crime for Government Officials in charge of health to sit aloof to allow the shortage of vaccines in the country.
He said it was unacceptable for Government Officials in charge of health to look on while vulnerable children were getting infected with diseases that could easily be prevented or avoided.
Mintah Akandoh said there were two main ways of financing vaccines for children in Ghana, adding that of the 13 vaccines, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) was co-financing about 10 of them while the Government of Ghana was to finance the other three.
He said even with that, the Government of Ghana was still defaulting.
He said GAVI believed that the children could not be punished because of the mistakes of politicians and even though Ghana was owing, GAVI was still supplying those 10 vaccines.
“Now we as a country, we are supposed to 100 per cent procure about three of them (the vaccines), which include the vaccines against tetanus, poliomyelitis and measles and with these three we are defaulting.
“One very important thing we must all take note of is that GAVI, which is co-financing about 10 of these vaccines is considering withdrawing completely.
“So, if we cannot finance only three, can we finance 13 of them? GAVI is considering withdrawing from co-financing because we claim we are at a middle-income status. So, if we cannot finance only three, and it gets to a point where GAVI withdraws, we will be in deep trouble.”
He said Parliament passed the National Health Insurance allocation formula every year, and that there was an allocation in the National Health Insurance formula for the purchase of vaccines.
Mintah Akandoh said when the formula was submitted to this House for 2022, an allocation of about GHS72 million was made to procure vaccines.
He said the Health Committee of Parliament invited the Minister responsible for Health and some other agencies, including the National Health Insurance Authority, and that at the said meeting, the Authority made it categorically clear that GHS72 million had been released.
“It beats my imagination that after the release of the GHS72 million, there is a shortage of vaccines in this country,” he said.
“We started recording measles in this country around October 2022, about four clear months ago. This is an emergency situation; this is a clear failure of Government.”
He blamed the Health Minister and the Government for looking on over the past four months while the country still did not have vaccines in its system.
Adding that this was unpardonable, because in the planning for vaccines procurements and its deployment, and that they were supposed to plan.
He mentioned that the House looked at the allocation for vaccines for 2024 in 2023 and that they looked at the vaccine allocations for 2023 in 2022, saying “so why have we run short of these vaccines”.
He said the shortage of vaccines in the country was highly unacceptable, especially so when these vaccines were not over-the-counter medications, where people could walk in and buy these vaccines.
He said the vaccines were sensitive and highly protected by organisations and stated, “So if you don’t have the vaccines, all the children in this country are at a very high risk”.
He noted that due to the instability in Ghana’s northern neighbour, Burkina Faso, there had been an influx of refugees from that country into northern Ghana and that children such as refugees who were not fully vaccinated against the six childhood killer diseases were likely to carry such diseases into Ghana.
He said the issue of vaccines for the six childhood killer diseases was a sensitive matter and therefore a national emergency.
“What we are expecting at the end of the day is that the Minister announces that they have taken deliveries of the vaccines and for that matter tomorrow they are starting the distributions of these vaccines,” he stated.