Parliament to subpoena health minister over vaccine shortage

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The Health Committee in Parliament has said it will haul the minister of health before the house to answer questions on the shortage of vaccines in Ghana.

Kwaku Agyeman-Manu on Tuesday failed to appear before the committee to answer questions about the scarcity of childhood vaccines in Ghana.

Ghana has over the past few weeks been experiencing shortage of vaccines for diseases such as measles, polio, and tuberculosis raising concerns from stakeholders.

Speaking at the Committee hearing on Tuesday, a ranking member, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh said the development is quite worrying, hence the decision by the house to subpoena the minister.

“It’s quite disheartening to say the least that, in our attempt to ask questions for answers, the minister responsible for health is nowhere to be found,” he said.

“…I have no option than to agree with Honourable Muntaka to subpoena the minister responsible for health to come and answer questions, especially when the NHIS has indicated that they have met all their financial obligations,” Akandoh said.

Meanwhile, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has given the assurance that vaccines used for the immunisation of babies from birth to at least 18 months, which are reportedly in short supply, will be available in three weeks.

Vaccines against hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza type B, meningitis and six infectious diseases (diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles, pertussis and tuberculosis) harmful to babies are administered under the routine vaccination.

Media reports on Thursday (23 February) indicated that there was a nationwide shortage of the vaccines.

In a side-line interview at a national conference at the Christian Service University in the Ashanti Region, the director-general of the Ghana Health Service, Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, explained that the shortage in supply is because of the depreciation of the cedi.

It caused some delays in the procurement of the vaccines. However, he clarified that not all the vaccines are in short supply.

“There are two types of vaccines. We have the traditional ones that the nation buys and we also have the ones that we usually get in collaboration with the government where the government pays part,” he said.

“We have had some delays in procuring some of those vaccines for which polio, MR, and BCG are in short supply. It was also because the ministry’s budget to procure them are in cedis, and at the time it was due for procurement, because of exchange differences it was very difficult to procure, so now we have done it,” Kuma-Aboagye said.

Kuma-Aboagye added that the vaccine shortage will be resolved in the next three weeks for vaccination to resume. “Within the next three weeks we will do a quick catch-up vaccination for the kids who have had a delay in taking their dosage to catch up and, we hope that within the next three weeks we will address it.”

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