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Ghana: COVID-19 vaccination enters next phase; All health workers targeted

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has assured that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and has therefore encouraged everybody to participate in the vaccination programme in Ghana, as the country moves into the next phase of the vaccination.

Beginning Monday, March 22, 2021, all health workers in other districts and regions in Ghana are to be vaccinated.

The Director General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma Aboagye explains that approximately 90,000 health workers are being targeted in this next phase of the vaccination programme in Ghana.

This, he said includes both public and private sector health workers and that their names and locations have been vetted and each district will have two sites for vaccination “and we are hoping that within a week, or two weeks, all health workers would have been covered across the country."

More vaccines coming

Addressing a press briefing Sunday afternoon [March 21, 2021] Dr Kuma Aboagye said Ghana was still pursuing additional vaccines as well as sustaining the public education on adherence to safety protocols and vaccine uptake.

"I'm sure we are all asking when the next vaccines are coming."

“So far Ghana needs about 42 million doses, that is if we are using only two dose vials for all, to vaccinate the 20 million people we have targeted to do by October [2021] and this include the anticipated wastage and that is why it is 42 million.

"So far we have 12 million plus from the COVAX facility which will cover about six million people covering 20 percent of the population."

"We are also having about 17 million plus requested from the Africa Medicines Platform that we hope to arrive... and also the private sector is partnering with Ghana to bring in additional quantity through the COVAX facility."

"We are also involved in bi-lateral discussions with other vaccine manufacturers to be able to fill up this number. So far we have received the 600,000, and additional 50,000 plus.

MTN

Dr Kuma Aboagye said MTN as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) is supporting Africa with vaccines and we are expecting that within a day or two, we will receive about 160,000 doses for Ghana.

"We are expecting that in the next two weeks, we will get another inflow again from the areas we are expecting them to come from. What we don’t know is that we don’t have the definite time but we know that within the period that people are supposed to receive their second doses, we would have received enough vaccines to cover more people and give those who are due for the second dose."

“And let me remind you that the second dose is eight to 12 weeks from the date of vaccination. We are tentatively using the 8 weeks as the next vaccination but there is also the buffer of four more weeks and the issue is that the longer, the more effective the vaccine is and so we will follow up the timetable, the data have been given and continue with the vaccination.

EU and AstraZeneca

Touching on reports in Europe where there were discussions on AstraZeneca, on the issue of whether or not it causes blood clots, Dr Kuma Aboagye explained that some countries in the EU suspended the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a precautionary measure based on reports of rare blood coagulation disorders in persons who had received the vaccine.

He said other countries in the EU – having considered the same information continued using the vaccine in their immunization programmes.

He noted that vaccination against COVID-19 will not reduce illness or deaths from other causes and that Thromboembolic (blood clotting) events are known to occur frequently, adding that Venous thromboembolism (a blood clotting event) is the third most common cardiovascular disease globally, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In mass vaccination campaigns, it is routine for countries to signal potential adverse events following immunization but this does not necessarily mean that the events are linked to vaccination itself, but it is good practice to investigate them, he added.

It also shows that the surveillance system works and that effective controls are in place.

AstraZeneca safe

He added that the European Medicines Agency has reviewed the latest information on COVID-19 vaccine and indicated the safety of AZ vaccine.

The Ghana FDA [Food and Drugs Authority] has issued a Press Statement on the fact that no Blood clotting events have been detected in its robust Adverse Events Monitoring System which it does in collaboration with the GHS.

The WHO, EMA, the Ghana FDA and many other Regulatory Authorities around the world indicate that AstraZeneca continues to be safe and recommend its continuous use in fighting the pandemic.

Complaints in Ghana

Dr Kuma Aboagye said the most common complaints received in Ghana from a total of 1575 people after the vaccination out of the over 460,000 total people vaccinated, are mostly non serious issues on headache, fever, pain at injection site and general bodily aches.

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