Malaria Vaccination: The success story of Heavenly Joy Atta

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 Sussan Heavenly Joy Atta, the first child to receive malaria vaccine in the Cape Coast Metropolis in 2019 at age one, is hale-and-hearty and doing very well.

Joy, who is now two-and-a-half years old, has successfully completed the full four doses of the malaria vaccine and has not contracted the dreaded disease due to the preventive measures her parents took.

“Malaria is cruel and deadly and poses a threat to human survival if nothing is done about it to protect mankind,” Madam Sabina Assimeku, Baby Atta’s mother, cautioned, when narrating the success story to the Ghana News Agency (GNA).

The GNA visited Baby Atta’s home for an exclusive interview as part of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) and the African Media and Malaria Research Network’s (AMMREN) intervention to campaign for a malaria-free environment by 2030.

“Joy is done with the full doses and we sleep under treated mosquito nets so we are always protected, thanks to our care givers,” the obviously delighted mother of three indicated.

Painting a picture of her baby’s experience with the vaccine, Madam Assimeku said her daughter did not experience any side effect pertaining to the intake of the malaria vaccine and advised parents to get their children vaccinated as the vaccine is safe and protective.

She encouraged parents and guardians to make their children and ward’s safety a priority as malaria is a cruel disease that can affect any child, regardless of his or her background.

Since the introduction of the malaria vaccine in Ghana in 2019, many children and their parents are relieved, Madam Assimeku said, and that the rest of her children are protected as they have all taken their doses.

She admonished the public that self-diagnosis and medication is a no go area for treating malaria and urged persons with symptoms of malaria to visit the health centres for proper diagnosis and treatment.

She urged people to sleep under treated bed nets, clean the gutters around their houses and get rid of stagnant water, which tend to breed the anopheles mosquito; the vector that passes on the malaria parasites.

“We should clean the environment so as not to leave any breeding ground for the mosquitoes,” she said.

Health Practitioners’ Efforts

The Cape Coast Metropolitan Health Directorate has increased its case management, distribution of long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs), particularly among pregnant women, to help prevent and reduce malaria cases in the Metropolis.

Incidentally, the Superintendent Nurse of the Ewim Polyclinic in charge of RCH, Mrs Lydia Ofori Atta, who bears the same surname as Joy, underscored the importance of home base treatment of malaria by health workers to the scaling up of community care and treatment, and targeting children under five years, especially those living in outreach communities with limited access.

She said health practitioners had developed scheduled dates and times for parents to get their children vaccinated, a way to track the children to complete their full doses.

Also, Mrs Atta said the Metropolis had embarked on effective distribution and adherence to the usage procedures of the LLINs, coupled with a well-planned and efficient malaria control management team to readily make drugs available to support the fight.

Statistics

Available statistics reveal that the Metropolis has significantly recorded a decrease under-five malaria deaths, a major improvement in efforts to end malaria in children.

The Metropolis recorded 2,041 malaria under-five cases from July 2020 to December 2020, as compared to 3,791 cases in July 2019 to December 2019, representing a total decline of 1,750 cases.

In Ghana, available reports reveal that malaria-related deaths across all ages have reduced by 89 per cent from 2,799 in 2012 to 308 at the end of 2020.

Also malaria-related admissions for all ages reduced by 27.8 per cent from 428,000 in 2012 to 308,887 in 2020, while the case fatality rate among children under-five years decreased from 0.12 per cent in 2012 to 0.06 per cent in 2020.

Challenges

Though there had been improvement in managing malaria in the Cape Coast Metropolitan Health Directorate, health officials encounter some challenges in executing their duties.

Mrs Eva Ama Amoah, a Community Health Nurse at the Cape Coast Metro Hospital, expressed worry over the failure of some parents to keep their check-up dates, forgetting that the nurses would go to their homes to vaccinate their children.

She said it was sad that some people used the treated nets as fish covers and fence for gardens, with the wrong perception that sleeping under the nets could have long-term negative effects on their health.

Way Forward

If all babies are vaccinated against malaria and religiously sleep under mosquito nets while the various communities ensure clean and safe environment devoid of mosquitoes, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number 3.2 will become a reality by 2030.

All stakeholders must endeavour to play their parts to achieve this laudable goal, which will not only safeguard the health of both children and adults but save the nation huge sums of money used in importing medicines to treat the sick, not to mention the man hours lost in productivity due to ill-health.

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