President of the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association, Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo, has cautioned mothers against passing on their newborn babies to relatives and visitors.
According to her, in the face of an acute shortage of essential vaccines for babies in the country, parents, mothers, have to be extra cautious not to expose their babies to diseases or put them in unsafe environments as this may lead to their death.
Ghana has run out of essential BCG and OPV vaccines as a result of the Ministry of Health’s failure to secure procurement of these vaccines since the year began.
The BCG vaccine is primarily needed to prevent the occurrence of tuberculosis in babies, while the OPV is to prevent polio infections.
Other essential vaccines to prevent diseases such as measles, whooping cough etc. are also in short supply.
The Ministry of Health says it is liaising with UNICEF and other stakeholders to bring vaccines into the country, however, till then, Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo has advised babies should not be passed around from one person to the other.
Speaking on JoyNews’ PM Express, she noted that some adults are latent carriers of diseases like tuberculosis, thus while they may not show symptoms they could easily pass on the disease to babies which could kill them.
“The cultural nature or the way we go about things means that if you put a child or you put a baby in a certain environment which is not the best, it predisposes the child especially to the TB and to the measles and to the rubella,” she said.
She added that polio is also often transmitted through contaminated food and water, and from contact with infected persons, thus parents should be cautious about what they feed their babies.
“When you look at the polio, the virus is transmitted through contaminated water or food and sometimes contact with infected persons and all of that,” she said.
She thus advised that “the vaccines are not available but parents, mothers should hold their babies close to them. The culture of handing over newborn babies to one person or the other and people coming around, they should protect their babies from all of it because you may never know.
“And when it comes to the kind of fluids that are given to these babies, they should make sure that it is safe, it is wholesome, and that if children are to be given any water – you know for us as nurses we educate them to exclusively breastfeed for six months. But not all parents are able to do that. Not all mothers are able to do that, and they end up giving them water and all of that.
“They should make sure that if they have to give these babies water, it is wholesome water, because if they don’t have all the OPVs and BCGs at birth which should protect them it is quite serious.”
She called on government to recognize the situation as a public health emergency and do whatever it takes to get the vaccines back into circulation as soon as possible.
“And as a nation we should take this as a public health emergency and get these drugs from wherever we can get them so that the EPI of the Ghana Health Service can deploy them and our nurses, our community health nurses, our public health nurses stationed all over the country can actually give the vaccines to the babies,” she said.
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