Ghana on Tuesday introduced the use of the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) into her routine immunisation programme. The launch of the IPV in Accra, by Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, the Minister of Health, would enable the country to ensure that substantial proportions of the populations, especially children, are protected against the type two Polio virus.
It would also reduce the risk of an outbreak after the withdrawal of the type two Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). Mr Agyeman-Manu said the introduction was also part of the global effort to eradicate polio, which was a viral disease that affected all manner of persons, particularly children, leaving devastating effects like permanent paralysis or death.
The Health Minister, therefore, announced that effective Friday, June 1, 2018, the IPV would be made available at all health facilities and vaccination posts throughout the country, and it would be administered concurrently with the OPV.
Trained health workers would also be available at the usual vaccination centres to provide a myriad of child health services, including the administration of a single dose of IPV for children aged 14 weeks and above.
Mr Agyeman-Manu expressed gratitude to all partners for their sustained support for Ghana’s routine immunisation programmes over the past years, which included the administration of OPV, nation-wide vaccination campaigns, mop-ups and active surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis to contain the virus should it occur locally or be imported.
He said those initiatives had yielded positive results, stating that; “No Polio case has been reported since the last outbreak in 2008 and we commend our gallant health workers, partners and volunteers, who have, in various ways, helped to achieve this feat”.
Mr Agyeman-Manu explained that the OPV had been and continued to be the primary tool in the global polio eradication effort until now, aiding the reduction of the incidence by more than 99 per cent due to its unique ability to stop person-to-person spread of the virus.
The polio virus, he said, was only endemic in three countries worldwide now: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, and that despite the progress made globally, experts had cautioned that polio-free countries still remained at risk until it had been totally eradicated everywhere.
He said evidence, therefore, demonstrated that adding one dose of IPV to multiple doses of OPV was the most effective method to stop the polio virus and protect children. The introduction of IPV globally also paves the way for the eventual withdrawal of all OPV vaccines once polio virus transmission was stopped in the few remaining polio-affected countries.
Mr Agyeman-Manu stated that the fight against polio was in sight, and, therefore, called upon district assemblies, religious bodies, the media, traditional leaders, parents and the public to take the eradication of polio as a personal challenge.
Mr Owen Kaluwa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, said introducing the IPV into Ghana’s routine immunisation was a key milestone towards polio eradication.
This is one of the main health priorities aimed at ensuring that no child, regardless of where they live, suffer from or become paralysed by the virus. He, however, acknowledged that although Ghana, and the African Region, had made very good progress towards the eradication of polio, there was no room for complacency.
The fight must continue to sustain vigilance against polio to maintain a certified polio-free status. “This will require that going forward, as a country, we move towards allocating more domestic resources for immunisation services,” he said. Dr George Bonsu, the Programme Manager for the Expanded Programme on Immunisation, said the IPV was safe as it was currently being used in 163 countries globally.
It has no serious side effects, although minor local reactions may occur just as in the cases of other vaccines, and it had been fully registered for use by the Ghana Food and Drugs Authority. The IPV would further strengthen the immune system and provide protection by preparing the child’s body to fight against the polio virus.