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Increase funding for vaccine programmes - West Africa Aids Foundation appeals to govt

BY: Biiya Mukusah Ali

The West Africa Aids Foundation (WAAF) has appealed to the government to increase immunisation funding in order to sustain gains made in the coverage of the 13 vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) since 1972.

The Bono and Ahafo Regional Coordinator of the non-governmental organisation, Mr Edward Ayabilah, said there was evidence that the country could not sufficiently cater for its own immunisation cost by 2024 if the rate of financial commitment to immunisation remained the same.

He explained that the proportion of the country's health budget to the national budget had reduced from 8.3 per cent in 2019 to 6.7 per cent in 2020.

The 13 VPDs are tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, diphtheria, haemophilus influenza type "B", hepatitis "B" and pneumococcal disease.

Others are measles, rotavirus diarrhoea, rubella, yellow fever, and neisseria meningitis, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 and malaria vaccines which are on pilot.

Domestic financing

Mr Ayabilah made the call at Kenyasi in the Asutifi North District of the Ahafo Region during a stakeholders' engagement on Immunisation Advocacy Initiative (IAI) aimed at increasing domestic financing for immunisation.

The IAI project, which is sponsored by the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), is also aimed at engaging stakeholders, citizens and policy makers to discuss issues of health and immunisation budget allocations, among others.

Mr Ayabilah said the cost of immunisation in Ghana was rising without a corresponding increment in government funding, explaining that Ghana's enviable vaccination coverage had been riding mainly on the back of donors, and was, therefore, not sustainable.

He said the country's projected expenditure for immunisation was predicted to grow from $5.3 million in 2020 to $8.9 million in 2022 before reaching $13 million in 2024.

Mr Ayabilah called on the Ministry of Finance to commit more funds towards immunisation in order to make substantial savings on expenditure towards treating VPDs.

"The ministry should be consistent in annual budgetary allocation for routine immunisation activities to ensure that no child is left behind," he said.

Gavi's exit

Mr Ayambila explained that the expected exit in 2026 of Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), which was the largest external financier of immunisation, had widened the funding gap that required critical attention from the government if the country was to protect gains made in reducing mortality and morbidity due to vaccine preventable conditions over the years.

He said the country was expected to fully transition from GAVI financial support in 2026, and explained that the government would be responsible for an increasing annual share of vaccine and vaccine delivery cost.

Mr Ayabilah expressed the need for the government to invest heavily in immunisation programmes and put to measures in place to become fully self-financing for vaccines before the exit of Gavi.

He said the country had made significant strides in eliminating VPDs, and had consistently been among the first sub-Saharan African countries to introduce new vaccines into its routine immunisation programmes.

Mr Ayabilah explained that since 2003, there had been no death caused by measles, and in 2012 Ghana was certified as having attained elimination status for maternal and neonatal tetanus, meeting the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) 2020 goal of eliminating the disease seven years ahead of target.

Participants

During the open forum, participants called on the government to use part of the National Health Insurance Fund to support immunisation to treat VPDs.

They also expressed the need for the government to break the cycle of fluctuating health budgetary allocations in single digit band, and to progressively move the Ministry of Health’s share of the country's total expenditure to a minimum of 15 per cent.

The Deputy Ahafo Regional Director of Public Health, Dr Felicia Amoo-Sakyi, said the absence of cold rooms in the region was a hindrance to smooth immunisation because vaccines and other supplements needed to be transported from Sunyani.

"Once there is access to cold room, the region can forecast its vaccine needs; it makes management easier," Dr Amoo-Sakyi stated.