Ghana's vaccine heroes make public health history

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From health workers to paediatricians, 100s of Ghanians have played a frontline role in making their country the first in Africa to simultaneously introduce pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. Six of Ghana’s vaccine heroes describe what it takes to make history.

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Vaccine hero

Dr. Frank Nyonator, Executive Director of Ghana Health Service

Frontline role

Manage eight sub-committees, covering cold chain logistics, communication, training and service delivery, coordination and planning, monitoring and evaluation and safety monitoring report.

Viewpoint

“Getting to the ‘nitty gritty’ of getting vaccines in place, inviting people, getting the population to be aware, it’s so, so so huge for us. For all the staff, all that they do now is to think, eat, drink new vaccines!

We are really excited that we are at the cutting edge and that the whole world is looking at us, wondering, can Ghana do it?  We decided to introduce these two vaccines into our system at the same time because of the system that we have. We have the human resources, and we have the will, to be able to do this. And if we introduce the two together it will be quicker and more efficient than introducing one after the other.”

From health workers to paediatricians, 100s of Ghanians have played a frontline role in making their country the first in Africa to simultaneously introduce pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. Six of Ghana’s vaccine heroes describe what it takes to make history.

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Vaccine hero

Emilia Okai, Regional Disease Control Officer of Ghana’s Eastern Region, with a population of over two million spread over an area of 19,323 square kilometres

Frontline role

Train district health workers in Ghana’s Eastern region how to deliver and monitor pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines.

Viewpoint

“We have trained 63 district staff members on all aspects of the new vaccines.  They  are training all other health worker at community levels including the private hospitals that provide vaccination services, so they know all about the vaccines. “

Vaccinators learn that pneumococcal vaccines will always be given on the right thigh to avoid confusion with pentavalent vaccines, which protect against five common childhood diseases and are always given on the left thigh. Rotavirus vaccines are given orally.

 

 

From health workers to paediatricians, 100s of Ghanians have played a frontline role in making their country the first in Africa to simultaneously introduce pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. Six of Ghana’s vaccine heroes describe what it takes to make history.

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Vaccine hero

Paul Bediako, National Cold Chain Manager

Frontline role

Make sure pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines are stored and transported to immunisation clinics at the correct temperature in a country which averages 30 degrees Celsius  in April.

Viewpoint

In the past, different vaccines were kept in different fridges which had to be monitored separately. Now, all 10 regions in Ghana are being provided with walk-in cold rooms to store all the vaccines. At a glance, all the information about the status of the vaccines will be available.

"Even though we are getting two new vaccines at the same time, there is already a (cold chain) system in place. 

This joint introduction will save time because we’ll be using the same resources and the same people.  It is much more efficient than introducing one vaccine and then waiting one or two years to introduce the other, to start the whole process again."

From health workers to paediatricians, 100s of Ghanians have played a frontline role in making their country the first in Africa to simultaneously introduce pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. Six of Ghana’s vaccine heroes describe what it takes to make history.

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Vaccine hero

Peter Owusu, community-based health volunteer in Eastern Region

Frontline role

Get the word out to parents about the need to immunise their children against pneumococcal and rotavirus.

Viewpoint

Across the country, Ghana is mobilising village health volunteers. Their job is to educate communities about the importance of introducing pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines.

It’s important that mothers know the essentials about the vaccines and when they should bring their children to be immunised.  Parents also need reassuring that the new vaccines will work well with the jabs their babies already receive.

At the district level, the health service is talking to district assemblies and opinion leaders from the community, and in turn they hold meetings with groups in their communities to discuss the importance of the vaccines.

Nationally, the health service has been given free air time on ‘Sunrise FM!’ to spread the word.

From health workers to paediatricians, 100s of Ghanians have played a frontline role in making their country the first in Africa to simultaneously introduce pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. Six of Ghana’s vaccine heroes describe what it takes to make history.

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Vaccine hero

Dr. K.O.Antwi-Agyei, Coordinator for Ghana’s Expanded Programme of Immunisation

Frontline role

Keeping track of the nationwide introduction of pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines and their impact.

Viewpoint

“Record keeping is one of the many challenges facing health officials. That is why, even before preparations to introduce the vaccines began, we had to look at our health cards in which the records are entered for individual children.

We have revised the card to include the two new vaccines, pneumococcal and rotavirus. But we are looking ahead, and we also included spaces for all new vaccines, so that in the future, we will not have to modify and reprint all the health cards every time we introduce a new vaccine.”

 

 

 

From health workers to paediatricians, 100s of Ghanians have played a frontline role in making their country the first in Africa to simultaneously introduce pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. Six of Ghana’s vaccine heroes describe what it takes to make history.

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Vaccine hero

Dr. Mame Yaa Nyarko, Paediatrician

Frontline role

Delivering the vaccines to children at the Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital in Accra

Viewpoint

“I’m looking forward to seeing a dramatic response here to these new vaccines. A lot of our children die from pneumonia or from severe dehydration due to diarrhoeal disease.  It’s quite similar to the national picture. 

Rotavirus vaccines have dramatically reduced the incidence of admittance in hospitals for diarrhoea in countries where it has already been introduced. This will save parents from losing time from work because they have to stay with the children, and it will also free up hospital beds.

The pneumococcal vaccines will protect our children from pneumococcal infection, the leading cause of pneumonia, especially in under-fives.  Pneumococcal infection also causes meningitis and sepsis. Some children we lose because they are severely ill or do not manage to get here on time.

The burden for those two diseases has been too great.  These vaccines will go a long way to changing that."

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