Ghana on May 1, 2019 became the second country in the world after Malawi to introduce the only Malaria tested vaccine.
The vaccine is expected to reduce hundreds of thousands of deaths from Malaria in Africa each year.
According to Ghana’s Health Service, people in every part of the country—roughly 30 million men, women and children—are at risk of malaria, and 20 percent of all children have malaria parasites in their blood.
There were an estimated 11 Million suspected cases of malaria in Ghana and 5.5 million confirmed cases in 2018.
Introduction of the vaccine in Ghana is targeting children who are at greater risk of dying from the disease.
First recipients of the vaccine were from the Cape Coast hospital in central Ghana where health officials are upbeat about prospects of the exercise.
“I hope this will help us to be able to eliminate malaria, so Ghana can be a malaria-free country,” said Justice Arthur, the doctor running the clinic.
— United Nations (@UN) May 4, 2019
The vaccines will be given to children between the ages of six months and two years, in a project run by Ghana’s health ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO).
”I am really hopeful that the vaccine is going to help me and my family,” said Abigail Aguanyi, a woman waiting to get her daughter, Blessing, vaccinated.
The vaccine, known by its lab initials RTSS, has passed lengthy scientific trials which found it to be safe and effective at preventing about four in ten cases of malaria in infants—the best ever recorded.
Opposition to vaccine
But the exercise in Ghana has not been without challenges. A civil society organization, the Coalition for Ghana’s Independence is urging the public to boycott the pilot malaria vaccination exercise.
According to the group, “Ghanaians participate in this exercise at their own risk as the Government of Ghana does not bear any responsibility whenever there is a vaccine injury during these kinds of vaccination programs.”
In an interview with Africa Feeds, Convener for the group Evans Tawiah argued that “Ghana as a country has categorically stated in its public health Act 2012 (section 159 and 172) that should anyone get injured during or after vaccination program the state cannot be liable in any way or by any means legal or civil.”
“It is important to note that many people in Ghana have become vaccine injury victims, from polio vaccine to tetanus and many others but no one think about them, in the end, it is the family of the victims who bear the loses and the trauma,” Tawiah added.
Another Ghanaian expressing reservation about the malaria vaccines is a former health worker, Kwasi Agyei who in an article is asking authorities to tread cautiously.
He writes that “The concept of vaccination is not bad scientifically. The intention is good. However, the history of vaccination has been scandalous over the years. It has been a very medium for biological weapon spread.
By biological weapons I mean the use of living organisms like viruses to cause death and diseases in countries across the globe.
Quality control measures
The very thing that makes these vaccinations in Africa scary is that, we do not do quality control to check the efficacy of the vaccine, or whether it contains some contamination intended to cause harm.
In fact we do not have the capacity as a country to do some of these quality controls. This is where our scientists and government must wake up.”
Agyei continued in his article saying “It is scientifically known, that through vaccines Hepatitis B and the HIV virus was spread among black communities. This is a serious debate in the scientific community.
And scientific facts have revealed some of these concealed intentions of some of the so called global powers, especially intended against the black population.
We must as a continent and country understand that, biological weaponry and bioterrorism is not in the hands of so-called terrorists groups, it is in the mainstream global health system: From the WHO through our own people because they use our own scientists and medical professionals to perpetrate inimical atrocities against blacks. There’s nothing like free lunch in the books of the white man.”
Let’s disregard the negative audio going round in Ghana about the Malaria Vaccine. Ghana is not the only country undertaking this exercise in Africa as purported by the audio. #VaccinesWork pic.twitter.com/CDlYbuZNrP
— Edmund Duodu (@edmundduodu) May 3, 2019
He added that “From where I stand, even if the malaria vaccination has no bad intention, we shouldn’t use it until we do our own quality control and the results published for medical scientist in Ghana and Africa to review.
It is a non-starter for a country to accept biologicals to be used on her citizenry without passing quality control in our own laboratories.
The very serious thing of concern is that, when these vaccines come to our country we usually don’t store it well. I have been a witness to the very vaccine bank at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, specifically the HIV/AIDS centre where the cold chain for storing vaccines could break for more than 2 months without any better CONTINGENCY PLAN to rectify the problem.
And as you might have known, the cold chain protects vaccines. So imagine a cold chain that has been broken for two months. This was one of the reasons I resigned from my former work. The guilt was eating me up. Knowing that spoilt vaccines are being used on my own people and I can’t do anything about it all in the name of work ethics.”
Health officials assure of safety
Officials of Ghana’s Health Service and Food and Drugs Authority have however assured the safety of the malaria vaccines.
Mosquirix is the first and to date the only vaccine to show a protective effect against Malaria among young children in phase 3 clinical trials. The vaccine would complement other measures currently used to fight malaria.
Mosquirix is also the first malaria vaccine to obtain a positive scientific opinion from a stringent medicines’ regulatory authority, the European Medicines Agency (in July 2015).
It is also the first malaria vaccine to receive authorization from regulatory authorities in three (3) African countries: Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
These three countries were selected by WHO to begin the introduction of Mosquirix in selected areas, as part of a large-scale pilot implementation programme, known as the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP).
“This is an exciting and long-awaited step forward to fight malaria and its devastating effects on the most vulnerable,” said WHO boss in Ghana, Owen Kaluwa during the public launch of the pilot project.
The pilot implementation programme is expected to take place in selected districts in the Bono Ahafo, Central, Volta and Upper East regions of Ghana.
Children in the MVIP areas will be divided into approximately two equal groups, namely, “comparison” and “implementation” districts.
Ghana Health Service on the malaria vaccine implementation in Ghana. pic.twitter.com/pDQQzCWZJA
— Tutankhamun. (@Obiba_) May 3, 2019
Children living in the areas designated as “implementation districts” within the regions will receive the vaccine whilst those in the “comparison districts” will not receive the malaria vaccine initially.
The districts that are not yet receiving the vaccine are serving as comparison areas to help health officials evaluate the programme.
This evaluation is meant to inform decisions on the vaccine’s potential use on a wider scale in Ghana and elsewhere across Africa where malaria is a public health threat.