Newborns to receive Hepatitis B vaccines within 24hrs of birth beginning next year
Ghana will from next year introduce a vaccine for Hepatitis B virus (HBV) to be administered to babies at birth, the Director-General (D-G) of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, has said.
He explained that the at-birth-dose vaccine would be made part of the country’s current childhood immunisation programme and administered within 24 hours of birth.
Speaking at the launch of this year’s World Hepatitis Day (WHD) in Accra yesterday, the D-G said the at-birth vaccination was expected to help reduce chronic HBV infections among the population.
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Dr Kuma-Aboagye said: “In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and with support from the Global Fund, the Service will in 2024 implement the triple elimination of Hepatitis B, along with Syphilis.”
“The antenatal service package will be expanded to include testing pregnant women for HBV, with the necessary treatment offered to those needing it.”
He said the government was working towards the reduction of some medications used for the treatment of hepatitis B and C on the global market, to enhance access to testing and treatment of the disease.
He called on the media to help sensitise the public to the need to check their hepatitis status and seek treatment (where required), as well as effect changes in their lifestyle.
The Programme Manager for National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme, GHS, Dr Atsu Godwin Seake-Kwawu, said there was the need to increase interventions to deal with viral hepatitis in the country.
He said in 2019, Ghana recorded 9.1 per cent of chronic hepatitis B, noted 1.5 million new infections per year and 820,000 deaths globally.
Mr Seake-Kwawu expressed the need to increase prevention, testing, link to cure, treatment and chronic care as well as reduce the cost of medication for treatment.
Mr Theobald Owusu-Ansah, the president of Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana, mentioned a number of activities lined up to observe the day this year, including free Hepatitis B and C screening and education at selected health facilities across the country, including Lamashegu, South Tamale, Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, Ridge Hospital, Noguchi and La-Nkwantanang-Madina Health Directorate.
Observed on July 28 annually, the WHD seeks to promote firm commitment towards preventing and controlling viral hepatitis as part of broader liver health and primary health care.
This year’s commemoration is on the theme ‘One Life One Liver’ meant to create awareness about the condition and communicate the urgent need for action.
Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver and is commonly caused by a viral infection.
The five main viral classifications of hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, with different viruses causing each type.