Assin Foso: health workers track down babies to give malaria vaccine

Assin Foso: health workers track down babies to give malaria vaccine

Like many other vaccines, getting people to accept the malaria vaccine, known as RTS, S has not been an easy task for health workers in the 47 districts in Ghana currently piloting the implementation of the vaccine.

Many parents and caregivers with babies within the vaccine’s target group are refusing to avail the babies for it. This is due to some misinformation about the malaria vaccine.

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But with effective education about the RTS, S malaria vaccine, the Assin Foso Municipal Health Directorate is making strides in the administration of the vaccine.

The health directorate, apart from engaging parents and caregivers through radio programmes, community durbars and outreaches as well as through antenatal care centres, also tracks down defaulting babies to their homes to give them the doses.

This method, the Assin Foso Municipal Health Director, Mr Benjamin Amoah, believes is yielding good results in the municipality’s drive to get babies who fell within the target age group to get vaccinated.

RTS, S vaccine

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) launched the RST, S malaria vaccine, a complementary malaria control tool in Ghana in May 2019. Since its launch in Ghana, 47 districts were selected to pilot the implementation of the vaccine, and Assin Foso Municipality of the Central region, is one of the 47 districts.

The RTS, S malaria vaccine pilot implementation programme is currently taking place in three countries in Africa—Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. Over 275, 000 children are reported to have received their first dose of the vaccine in the three countries since last April.

Children are to take four doses to complete the full cycle of the vaccination process. The 1st dose (RTS, S1) is taken when the child is six months while the 2nd dose (RTS, S2) is taken when the child is seven months.

The 3rd dose (RTS, S3) is taken when the child is 9-months old while the 4th dose (RTS, S4) is taking when the child is 24-months (2yrs-old).

For Mr Amoah, the exercise in Assin Foso is going on well as expected, describing it as “so far so good.”

Although he expressed some unhappiness about the dropout rate, particularly in relation to the administration of the fourth doses, he said the municipality was making every effort to get children within the jurisdiction vaccinated.

The numbers so far

Touching on the number of children who have taken the first doses, he said, in 2019, a total of 1,430 children took the first dose (RTS, S1) while 1,160 children took the second dose (RTS, S2).

The third dose (RTS, S3), Mr Amoah observed, a total of 810 children had come for it, explaining that since the fourth dose (RTS, S4) is taken in 24 months intervals, nobody was administered with the fourth dose in that year (2019).

He said a total of 2,073 children came for the first dose of the vaccine in 2020 while 1,958 children had so far taken their second doses.

For the third doses for the same year (2020), he noted, a total of 2,010 children had come for it while 253 children had also completed their fourth doses.

The first quarter of 2021, Mr Amoah said, so far, a total of 557 children had been given the first doses while 558 children had also taken their second doses.

He added that 557 children have also come for their third doses while 238 children have so far completed their fourth doses.

“We are making much efforts to reach them (children),” he said, pointing out that the municipality as part of its efforts to get all children vaccinated trace the defaulters to their homes through their ‘home visit’ programmes.

Mr Amoah explained that when parents or caregivers brought their children for the first doses, their details were taken so that when their next date was due and they are not showing up, they checked their records to get their contact details through which they traced them.

He said health workers in the municipality had raised community ambassadors and champions who assist them to trace the defaulting babies.

He was of the view that it was only through collaboration and cooperation between the health workers and the communities that would help to eradicate malaria in the area.

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Mr Amoah expressed the concern that malaria infections were still high in the municipality, noting that the area in 2019 recorded a total of 26,537 malaria cases out of which 8,231 were among children under five years.

In 2020 also, he said, the municipality recorded a total of 19,398 confirmed cases, with 5,315 being children under five years.

Why dropouts?

Explaining why only a section of those who take the first three doses come for the fourth dose, Mr Amoah said the long duration between the third doses and the fourth doses, partly contributes to the low turnout.

For him, because the duration between the third and the fourth doses was long, some parents might relocate to different area and since not every area is piloting the implementation of the vaccine, those children did not complete their vaccination.

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He said, for instance, that the dropout rate for the malaria vaccine in the municipality was more than 10 per cent, a situation he said, the directorate was working around the clock to get it checked.

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