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The Ghana Health Service (GHS)  yesterday launched the National Expansion of the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme in Sunyani, the Bono regional capital, to help eradicate malaria by 2030.

Additionally, the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, who launched the programme said the government was working to establish a Malaria Vaccine plant to produce local vaccines to eliminate malaria in the country.

It was on the theme: “Malaria Vaccine for Additional Protection”.

It was done in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), among others.

It brought together some regional directors, staff of the service, students of the Sunyani Nursing Training College and some chiefs and people of Sunyani.

Speaking at the launch, the Director-General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, said a total of 275 people died of malaria in 2021 out of 5.7 million confirmed cases in Ghana.

He said children under the age of five (20 per cent of the population) accounted for 1.6 million (28.1 per cent) of those cases and 125 deaths (45.4 per cent), explaining that children were at the highest risk of dying of malaria.

Dr. Kuma-Aboagye said the current trend in malaria disease burden emphasized the need to explore proven, cost-effective tools to complement existing interventions.

He said the service was working towards a target of  90 per cent reduction in malaria mortality and a 50 per cent reduction in malaria incidence by 2025 through several prevention and control interventions.

Dr. Kuma-Aboagye mentioned mass distribution of Long-Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs), Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), Larval Source Management, Intermittent Preventive Treatment for pregnant women (IPTp) and Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention (SMC) as some of the interventions.

He said since the launch of the programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in 2019, over one million children had been reached with at least one dose of the malaria vaccine through childhood immunization programmes.

Dr. Kuma-Aboagye said the phased implementation in Ghana and the other two countries had shown that the vaccine was well accepted even when additional visits to clinics were required. 

He said in Ghana, 1,359,199 doses of malaria vaccines had been administered since the roll out in 2019.

Dr. Kuma-Aboagye said the service, together with the Food and Drug Authority (FDA), through its robust pharmacovigilance system, had established that the malaria vaccine was safe, feasible to deliver and reduced deadly or severe malaria.

He said data from the seven implementing regions, namely Ahafo, Bono, Bono East, Central, Oti, Upper East and Volta regions, indicated a substantial reduction in the number of children hospitalised due to malaria and an overall decrease in children under-five deaths.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye said due to the positive evidence generated from piloted programmes and other available evidence, Ghana’s Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme was being expanded from the current 42 districts to 93 districts in the seven regions. 

However, Dr Kuma-Aboagye said although under-five deaths in Ghana had declined by about three quarters between 1990 and 2017, one in every 19 Ghanaian child did not survive to their fifth birthday.

He said the GHS in collaboration with the Ministry of Health was poised to reverse the unfortunate trend by introducing proven cost-effective programmes to improve overall health across the country.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye said one major contributor towards the improvement of child health was immunisation, explaining that currently, vaccines alone prevented two-three million children from death annually.

He said with concerted efforts with partners and other child health interventions, the service had positioned itself to accelerate efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and improved the lives of millions of children through the prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPDs).

For his part, Mr Agyeman-Manu said malaria killed one child every 30 seconds, which approximated to about 3,000 children every day worldwide.

He said nearly 500,000 African children under the age of five died from the disease annually, adding that in Ghana, there were 5.7 million confirmed malaria cases in 2021.

Mr Agyeman-Manu said there had been several efforts by scientists at both international and national levels to scale up existing interventions to control malaria.

He said despite these efforts, about one and a half of the world’s population was still at risk of malaria, a disease that still caused hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.

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