Praise from Washington for Ghana vaccine rollout

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Ghanaian Immunisation Panel addresses Ghana’s successful simultaneous rollout of two vaccines

The Ghanaian Vaccine Panel

Left to right: VOA reporter Linord Moudou, Alex Palacios (GAVI), Marc LaForce, formerly Meningtis Vaccine Project, Daniel Feikin (International Vaccine Access Center, Claudia Castillo (PAHO) Photo credit: Miles Sedgwick/2012.

Washington, DC, 5 May 2012 -- Panel discussions on Africa all too often focus on the continent’s ills, but the Ghanaian Immunisation Panel on Thursday addressed something that went well: Ghana’s recent simultaneous rollout of rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines.

“Ghana made it look so easy,” said Voice of America reporter Linord Moudou, who attended the 26 April roll rollout and was also moderating the panel.

“There was a real commitment from the local communities. Those communities really embraced the whole process.”

First time in Africa

Several panelists praised Ghana’s efforts. “It’s the first time that it has occurred in Africa, and it wasn’t just two vaccines at once. It was two new vaccines at once,” said Alex Palacios, GAVI’s Special Representative in Washington.

The discussion, which was held at the Ghana Embassy, drew more than 80 people.

Campaign aims to reach 400,000

Pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease caused by rotavirus are responsible for 20 percent of child deaths for those under the age of five in Ghana. The vaccine campaign plans to reach 400,000 children.
Dr. Daniel Feikin, Director of Epidemiology at the International Vaccine Access Center, said many countries only want to deal with one vaccine introduction at a time. But he said Ghana showed two could be done simultaneously.

“They were thinking about child survival,” he said. “The number one killer is malaria, but there’s no vaccine yet. Number two? A tie: pneumonia and diarrhoea. They said OK, if we want to reduce child mortality, we have to do both.”

Vaccines: ‘Sexy stuff’

An audience member asked whether Ghana and other countries could sustain vaccination coverage when donors eventually pull out.

“Yes, what happens after all the sexy stuff is done, after the introduction and the bands?” said Dr. Marc LaForce, former Director of PATH’s Meningitis Vaccine Project.

“To expect the WHO or UNICEF to pay for this forever is not right. What we have is an unresolved dilemma.”

Co-financing

Palacios said that GAVI’s approach gradually prepares countries to take over financing. He said over time countries pay more and more, just as the price decreases because of more demand.
Moderator Moudou also picked up on LaForce’s comment. “I heard many things about rolling out a vaccine,” she said, “but that is the first time that I heard it was sexy.”

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