After two years of the pilot implementation of the malaria vaccine, statistics show that only 14 percent of babies in selected rural communities have so far returned for the fourth and final dose.
Since the four-dose schedule adds new immunization visits to the routine system, special outreach efforts are needed to bring the children back, especially for the final dose at about two years of age. The malaria vaccine which is being administered in selected endemic areas is meant to protect children under five from the disease which annually kills more than 400,000 people, most of them children in Africa.
A visit to the Pru West District showed that out of the 2,519 children who took the first dose of the RTSS, the number reduced on each scheduled dose to the current low of 346 children for the final jab in the ongoing vaccination effort. Prang the district capital of Pru West is a three-hour drive from the regional capital Techiman. The predominantly farming community is malaria endemic especially during the rainy season from April to October.
According to health professionals, during this period malaria accounts for 80 percent of all OPD cases monthly with more than half being children under five years. Here is the District Director of Health Dr. Benjamin Aggrey. It was therefore not surprising that the district was selected as one of the first to receive the malaria vaccine for children which is being piloted in only three countries in Africa; Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
The vaccine is supposed to be given in four doses. First dose at 6 months, second dose at 7 months, third dose at nine months and final dose at two years.
At the District health center in Prang, a number of mothers are seated with their babies. Besides them are some community health workers preparing to administer the RTSS malaria vaccine. Whiles one of them educates the women about the procedure and takes down notes about the vaccine, the other taps the syringe to dislodge.
Then, one of the mothers exposes her baby’s thigh for the shot; it starts to cry, and she strokes the back. The mother who has one other child who did not benefit from the RTSS tells me her first child Selorm was frequenting the hospital for malaria unlike Kodjoga who received the vaccine.
To get a clearer picture of how residents in the District capital have received the vaccine, I followed Thomas, a community health nurse on his periodic visits to residents.
However, not everyone in Pru West has benefited from all four doses of the vaccine since it began is 2019.
According to the District Director of Health, Dr Benjamin Aggrey, just 14 percent have so far returned for the final fourth dose.
The situation is prevalent in communities like Kamampa, Abaase and Zambrama which become unmotorable when it rains. Here are some
Since the introduction of the RTSS, malaria cases in children under five have reduced drastically. While this is commendable, it is imperative to zero malaria in under five’s by ensuring that children in hard to reach areas receive the fourth dose to complete the vaccination.