Herd immunity vaccination on course despite setbacks — Minister of Health

BY: Emmanuel Bruce
The Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu
The Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu

The Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, has given the assurance that in spite of frustrations in accessing vaccines from the global market, the government was determined to vaccinate a greater chunk of the population

He said although over 1.2 million Ghanaians had so far been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, “we want to vaccinate 20 million people, which represents about 60 per cent of the population and by this, we will achieve herd immunity.”

Mr Agyeman-Manu was speaking at a meeting between the Ministry of Health, the Japanese government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to review the country partnership over a period of time.

The health minister explained that out of the number that had been vaccinated, 381,000 of them had received their second jabs, with plans underway to ensure the rest got their second jabs.

Review meeting

The meeting was to celebrate the successes chalked up in the long-term relationship between the government, Japan and UNICEF.

It was on the theme: “Celebrating successes and exploring more opportunities to give every child in Ghana a fair chance in life.”

Universal health coverage

Mr Agyeman-Manu said the government appreciated the immense support from the Japanese government and other development partners towards the country’s universal health coverage drive and strengthening the health system, specifically the COVID-19 response.

“We have had a long and successful relationship with the government of Japan and UNICEF in the implementation of various initiatives related to improving the health of Ghanaians. As a sector, we have benefitted immensely from technical support and grant aid provided,” he stated.

He said Ghana had defined universal health coverage as “all people having timely access to high quality health services irrespective of ability to pay at the point of use. We are aware that most of these programmes implemented with support from Japan and UNICEF have accelerated our progress towards attaining our universal health goals, especially in improving access to quality health services, including maternal and child health services.”

Access to health services 

The health minister also pointed out that access to health services had been enhanced in several regions and districts, with the support provided towards strengthening CHPS services, especially in the five regions in the northern part of Ghana.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to testing facilities were also enhanced with the support provided to the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research, which placed the institute at the fore of the detection of the virus in Ghana, even before other facilities were brought on board.

“The recently installed COVID-19 testing and diagnostic machine at the Eastern Regional Hospital has also contributed to the testing capacity for Ghana and reduced the waiting period from several days to a few hours,” he stated.

The Government of Japan has contributed nearly $1 million to procure ultra-cold chain equipment, designed to store COVID-19 vaccines at very low temperatures, as part of an ongoing strategic partnership with the Government of Ghana to shore up COVID-19 vaccinations and population immunity in the country.

The investment is expected to ensure capacity building and training of over 140 health staff on how to operate and maintain the cold chain equipment and monitor the COVID-19 vaccines distribution.

The Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Himeno Tsutomu, said Japan strongly emphasised human security as one of the philosophies of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

“Human security is not only about protection but also empowerment, and so it is profoundly important to intervene in the areas of health and nutrition as well as to fight against COVID-19.

“This new contribution has brought the total of Japan’s support through UNICEF in Ghana to approximately $3.3 million since 2019,” he stated.

Building back better

The UNICEF Representative in Ghana, Ms Anne Claire Dufay, for her part, said the strategic partnership was essential to build back better and strengthen health systems for the future.

“Together, we are making a difference in the lives of children and their families,” she said.