The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has successfully completed the third round of its scheduled Polio SIA campaigns in eight regions despite the initial disruption caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic. The house-to-house campaign by health professionals and trained volunteers vaccinated over 4.6m eligible children (0-59 months) in the Ashanti, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Volta, Upper West, Western and Western North regions.
These response vaccination campaigns became necessary after the country confirmed outbreak of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) and the subsequent declaration of public health emergency of national concern by the Ministry of Health. The first phase of the response, which covered 73 districts in 5 regions, was conducted from September to November 2019; the second phase which covered 38 districts was implemented from December 2019 to February 2020 and the third phase, covering 179 districts, started in March 2020.
In March 2020, the GHS organized its first round of polio campaign, as part of the Phase 3 response, vaccinating 272,291 children in 15 districts in Ashanti and Eastern regions with the monovalent Oral Polio Vaccine type-2 (mOPV2). The second and the third rounds of the response vaccination campaign were scheduled for April and May respectively but were postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the GHS and its partners including the World Health Organization (WHO) in September 2020 re-launched the mass immunization of children under five years against the circulating Vaccine-Deprived Polio Virus Type 2 (cVDPV2). The re-launch became possible following the dissemination of guidelines for the implementation of mass polio campaigns developed by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). All vaccinators, volunteers and supervisors were trained on COVID-19 prevention protocols and had been provided with personal protective equipment (PPEs) and alcohol-based hand sanitizers for use in order to ensure optimal infection prevention.
The second-round of the SIA was conducted from 10 - 13 September 2020, with the third round coming on from 8 – 11 October 2020. Trained immunization teams moved from house-to-house to immunize all children from birth to five years against polio. For the third-round children between the ages of 6 to 59 months were additionally given Vitamin A capsules which improves the functioning of the immune system and healthy growth and development of children.
Vaccination teams also delivered key messages on improved personal hygiene and good sanitation practices, child welfare clinic (CWC) attendance, and the adherence to COVID safety protocols by caregivers. In addition, the campaign offered an opportunity for active case search for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases to further strengthen the sensitivity of the surveillance system.
It is worth noting that WHO and other GPEI Partners (Rotary International, UNICEF and CDC) worked tirelessly preparing for these campaigns and also embarked on extensive supportive supervision in efforts to ensure no eligible child was missed.
Although Africa had been certified to be free from wild polio, the detection of 12 cases of the cVDPV2 in 2020 in Ghana (31 cases since the outbreak was declared in August 2019) necessitated the vaccination of the most vulnerable population; children under five.
The campaigns were successful as the public was receptive because they were assured of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine to protect children from the disabling and potentially deadly poliovirus.
Ghanaians are constantly encouraged to always support the Government and Health Partners to ensure that the children of Ghana receive all life-saving interventions and are protected against vaccine preventable diseases