Photo: A nurse administering a malaria vaccine to a child to mark the beginning of the expanded immunisation programme
Ranking Member on the Health Committee of Parliament, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, says the reasons proffered by Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service officials for the shortage of child immunization vaccines in the country are untenable.
Ghana has run out of essential BCG and OPV vaccines as a result of the Ministry of Health’s failure to secure procurement of these vaccines since the year began.
The BCG vaccine is primarily needed to prevent the occurrence of tuberculosis in babies, while the OPV is to prevent polio infections.
Other essential vaccines to prevent diseases such as measles, whooping cough etc. are also in short supply.
Speaking before parliament’s committee on health, officials of the Health Ministry and the Ghana Health Service had blamed various factors including the recent rapid cedi depreciation for their failure to procure the much needed vaccines, however, Minta Akandoh says their excuses are inexcusable.
He said the bodies had failed to appropriately plan for the procurement of the vaccines and had sat and watched as the country run out of the essential vaccines.
“In answering the questions, we realized that the Ministry together with Ghana Health Service itself, they were confused. Because Evans you don’t pay for vaccines or we don’t plan for vaccines within that same year, so whatever allocation was made in 2003 is supposed to take care of 2004.
“That is how you plan. And so if 2022 allocation has been released, the 2022 allocation was supposed to be for 2023. So you don’t wait till everything is gone before you start throwing your arms in despair,” he said.
Describing the cedi depreciation excuse as “the most ridiculous answer” at the committee hearing, he said the Ministry should have known better than to gamble with the lives of “vulnerable children.”
“One of the most ridiculous answers that was given was that at the time they had attempted to pay, there was this fluctuation of the cedi, very steep fluctuation of the cedi, and therefore, they were waiting to see how the depreciation will go.
“It’s quite ridiculous. You cannot say because your currency is depreciating you won’t buy vaccines to take care of vulnerable children in this country. So in summary all the reasons they gave before the committee are not tenable,” he said.
Mintah Akandoh further described as unacceptable the fact that the only source of funding for the procurement of child immunization vaccines in the country was what was contained in the National Health Insurance Authority’s formula.
According to him, the funds generated for that allocation is not enough to support an all-important exercise like vaccine procurement.
“You know, every year parliament has to approve the formula for the National Health Insurance Authority, and Evans, we have realized that there is an allocation in the National Health Insurance formula for the purchase of vaccines. This is not government money. This is National Health Insurance money paid by you and I. And Evans, it is highly unacceptable that that is the only source of funding for vaccines in this country. Highly unacceptable and nobody can convince me, highly unacceptable,” he said.
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