FDA allays concerns over AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safety in Ghana

The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has said the AstraZeneca vaccine, sold as Covishield and Vaxzevria, was one of six COVID-19 vaccines granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in February 2021. 'The EUA process allows for the availability of essential medical products during public health emergencies through a stringent, expedited process that ensures safety, quality, and efficacy,' it stated. This was in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency on Tuesday by the FDA to update the public on the vaccine's safety status in Ghana. It said during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, the FDA's Joint COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Review Committee (JCVSRC) received various reports of adverse events, adding that the reports were anticipated and managed according to national procedures. The statement indicated that the JCVSRC also monitored global reports of vaccine side effects, including thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS). 'TTS is a rare condition associated with adenoviral COVID-19 vaccines like Astra Zeneca's Vaxzevria and the Johnson and Johnson/Janssen vaccine,' it stated. The statement said; 'Symptoms appear between four and 42 days after vaccination. The estimated risk of TTS after the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is about two per 100,000 people vaccinated, with higher rates in individuals under 60. The risk decreases after the second dose.' It said as of the end of March 2024, 10,545,038 people in Ghana had received the AstraZeneca vaccine and that the FDA investigated 4,149 reported adverse events following immunization (AEFIs), and thrombosis with TTS was not among them. The statement noted that in Ghana, the EUA granted for the AstraZeneca vaccines expired in May 2023 in line with Section 4.4 of the FDA's guidelines on EUA when the COVID-19 pandemic was no longer listed as a global public health emergency of international concern. 'Globally, the AstraZeneca vaccine's manufacturers have suspended its production due to the development of new vaccines for emerging COVID-19 strains. The vaccine will therefore no longer be available for use globally,' it stated. It said despite this, the FDA remained vigilant in monitoring the safety of all vaccines used in Ghana, including COVID-19 vaccines, through its Safety Monitoring Department and its Technical Advisory Committee on Safety of Vaccines and Biological Products. The statement said during the pandemic, the JCVSRC, established by the FDA, worked with the Ghana Health Service Expanded Programme on Immunization to oversee vaccine safety. 'The JCVSRC suspended its regular meetings in 2023 as the number of adverse event reports declined, corresponding with reduced vaccine uptake,' it indicated. The FDA assured the public that it is dedicated to the continuous and proactive monitoring of all regulated products to ensure they remain safe, effective, and of high quality. 'Should any product present an unacceptable risk, the FDA will take swift regulatory action to safeguard public health.' Source: Ghana News Agency

Health Minister donates ambulance to UGMS

Dr. Bernard Okoe-Boye, Minister of Health, has donated a fully equipped ambulance to the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC) to help improve operations. He explained that the donation was intended to enable the facility to provide high-quality healthcare. The Minister made the donation during a working visit to acquaint himself with the operations of the Centre. He stressed that ensuring collaboration between hospitals and stakeholders would go to improve service delivery in the health sector, saying 'That is why we are bringing stakeholders together including health workers, the media and everybody onboard to make it work.' The minister also pledged to support health facilities across the country to provide quality healthcare to the public. 'Any health facility in Ghana, be it public, private, or quasi, once they engage in an activity which makes the Ghanaian happy, then the face of healthcare is a good oneā€¦ and that is why the Ministry of Health has decided not to distinguish between any of the f acilities. 'Once you are a health facility, your conduct becomes the face of the Ministry and that is the approach that we are going to take,' he added. The Minister said the ministry would do its best to give the UGMC the needed support to make it the best healthcare facility in the sub-region. 'We are going to do our best to support you so that you can be the best not only in West Africa but beyond. So, for me, my task is to see how we can increase your throughput, how more people can come in so that the world will know of the investment.' He said that the facility was a testament to the investment the country had made in the healthcare sector. Dr. Okoe-Boye said the government intends to adopt an appointment system for consultations or Outpatient Departments (OPDs) in all public hospitals across the country this year. 'Why should we be in a country where we walk into a hospital without knowing when the doctor will be available? 'With digitalization and technology, these are things we can do easily, and we are starting a pilot with the UGMC where every Ghanaian who wants to visit will be able to get either a chit or a code that shows the exact time to meet a doctor,' he stated. The Minister said the move would modernise hospital administration, make them orderly, and reduce congestion and the frustration of patients and health workers alike. Source: Ghana News Agency

Ghanaians advised to take charge of their mental health

As Ghana observes Mental Health Month in May, a Clinical Psychologist, Dr Ebenezer Tetteh Kpalam, has advised the public to take charge of their mental health by assessing their functionality and being positive in dealing with the daily stresses of life. In an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) Dr Kpalam said even though society was full of stresses stemming from economic hardships among other issues, people must make conscious efforts to improve their mental health by having positive interpersonal relationships and managing their stress levels. He recommended exercises, proper dieting, and regular mental checkups to deal with the daily stresses of life, adding; 'If you are struggling to cope with daily life, then your mental health is not in good shape.' 'When one is unable to deal with the normal stresses of life and cannot work well, make use of his or her own abilities, or contribute to society in general, then the person needs to see a professional psychologist or psychiatrist for diagnosis an d treatment.' Also, if the state of stress and other mental-related issues consistently affected a person's interpersonal relationship negatively for two weeks or more, it meant that person might be mentally unstable or unwell, he noted. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says; 'Good mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to the community; therefore, anything short of that needs to be checked.' Dr Kaplan, thus, called on organisations and religious bodies to add mental checks to their routine annual health talks and screenings, as it was equally important for their members. May is observed globally as a 'purple month' to create awareness about mental health and mitigate the stigma associated with mental health conditions. In Ghana, the Mental Health Authority takes the opportunity to amplify and advocate mental wellness across the country within t he month. Source: Ghana News Agency

Child Health: 6.3 million Children to get Ghana Cards

The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) and the National Identification Authority (NIA) have signed a joint cooperative agreement to register 6.3 million children for Ghana cards across the country. The initiative, which covers children between six and 14 years old is scheduled to commence on June 10, 2024. The two bodies have, therefore, urged parents and guardians to ensure that their children were registered to receive the Ghana card to facilitate access to healthcare and identification purposes. A statement issued by the NHIA said the targeted programme formed part of measures to ensure comprehensive healthcare coverage and national identity documentation for the youth. It said the early issuance of the cards sought to enhance access to essential healthcare services while facilitating participation in various socio-economic activities requiring official identification. 'The initiative aims to issue Ghana cards to this demographic, providing them with both healthcare access through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and official identification through the NIA,' it said. 'The collaboration between NHIA and NIA underscores a concerted effort by the Ghanaian government to streamline administrative processes and expand social services reach.' Dr Da-Costa Aboagye, Chief Executive of NHIA, said the collaboration with the NIA would set the foundation for building inclusive access to healthcare. 'We recognise the importance of providing universal healthcare coverage and ensuring that every child in Ghana has access to essential services,' he said. Dr Kenneth Agyemang Attafuah, Executive Secretary, NIA, described the Ghana Card as the fundamental tool for identity authentication and access to public services. 'The issuance of Ghana cards to children between six and 14 years represents a pivotal step in safeguarding their rights and enabling their full participation in society,' he said. Dedicated registration centres are expected to be set up in schools nationwide to facilitate the process. Source: Ghana News Agency

NPP Organiser, Parliamentary Candidate organise free health screening exercise for residents

Mr Felix Ade, the Oti Regional Organiser for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in collaboration with Mr James Mamudu, the Parliamentary candidate for Krachi Nchumuru, has organised a health screening exercise for constituents. Mr Ade explained that the health screening exercise was aimed at getting residents to appreciate the Party's concern for their health. The programme attracted a large turnout of both the old and the young at Chinderi, a predominant farming community. Speaking to the residents before the health screening, Mr Ade said the free health screening was an intervention for both the sick and the healthy, adding, it should not be when one is sick alone that one should visit the hospital. Mr Mamudu, the Parliamentary candidate of Krachi Nchumuru indicated that there was no hospital in the area, which prevented residents from accessing quality healthcare and noted that the screening exercise was an opportunity for them to be examined by doctors and know their health statuses. Mr Mamudu told the Gh ana News Agency (GNA) that the exercise would be replicated severally till the end of 2024. He noticed that many people had ailments they were not aware of, but when they were tested, they were advised on what to do and the drugs to take to improve their health. Some of the beneficiaries expressed appreciation to the Regional Organiser and the PC for the screening, saying the exercise had helped them know their health statuses for better treatment. Mr Stephen Oku Agyemang, the Life View Medical Centre, who provided the medications for the exercise said everyone was examined and given medication. Mr Nkrumah Akwasi Ogyile, the Krachi Nchumuru District Chief Executive (DCE) commended the organisers for the exercise, which he noted was paramount since such opportunities were rare in the district. Source: Ghana News Agency