The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has given the assurance that vaccines given to children go through stringent trials and other processes to guarantee their safety.
However, it says as is the case with all other medications, occasionally, adverse reactions occur after administration.
To this end, the Head of the Reproductive and Child Health Department of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Isabella Sagoe-Moses, has advised that in the rare event of such an occurrence, caregivers are to promptly report such events or unusual signs they see in their children after immunisation to the health facility where the immunisation took place.
That, she said, was to ensure that the adverse effects were treated quickly to save the lives of the children.
Dr Sagoe-Moses, who was speaking in an interview with the Daily Graphic, said it was also to enable the GHS to investigate the case and deal with any issues that came up to prevent similar occurrences in other children.
“We know that some of the vaccines given to children have side effects such as increased temperature or restlessness. These are common adverse effects that are harmless and can be treated at home with paracetamol,” she said.
She gave some examples of more unusual effects that should be reported to include rashes, very high temperature that does not settle after paracetamol, seizures etc.
Dr Sagoe-Moses said parents who reported adverse events seen in their children who were vaccinated would be interviewed by health personnel who would then complete a special form known as the AEFI (Adverse effects Following Immunisation) form.
The form, she explained, contained questions leading to detailed description of what happened and other details - the name of the vaccine given, the exact batch number and date the vaccine was administered to the child and the health facility where the child was vaccinated.
Explaining further, she said the completed forms would then be picked up later by officials of the National Immunisation Programme and worked on by a combined committee of specialists from the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and GHS for thorough investigation to establish whether or not there was an adverse reaction and if the reaction was actually due to the vaccination.
If that was the case, she continued, then the GHS would check whether the vaccine was contaminated or the problem had to do with poor storage or administration of the vaccine, and based on the results, the GHS would take the appropriate action.
Maternal and Child Health Records Book
Dr Sagoe-Moses said it was to help with such investigations that for every vaccination given to a child, the vaccine’s name, batch number, date the vaccine was given and the name of the person who administered it were recorded in the Maternal and Child Health Records Book.
“With this card, we get to know the vaccine given, the exact batch number and diluent batch number where applicable.
So when we investigate and find out there is a problem with a particular batch of vaccines, the entire stock will be withdrawn so that we do not expose children to danger,” she said.
She, therefore, advised parents to cooperate with the GHS when they reported such cases to the health facilities and health personnel asked them many questions.
On the safety of vaccines administered to children, Dr Sagoe-Moses indicated that the GHS worked closely with the FDA to ensure drug safety before and after administering them to children.
“People think that when we receive the vaccines from the manufacturer, we just start giving them out.
It is a very strict system.
FDA checks every medicine that is imported into the country, and that includes vaccines.
They do their inspection before they allow them into the country.
The GHS also safeguards the potency and safety of the vaccines by following a strict cold chain system,” she explained.
Dr Sagoe-Moses expressed concern about anti-vaccine messages going round the country, adding that what was happening in parts of Europe which had led to loss of confidence in some vaccines and its resultant measles outbreak could occur in the country if, “we continue with such misinformation about vaccines”.
She called on the National Media Commission (NMC) to impress upon media establishments and others concerned to guard against negative information about vaccination by providing the public with the right information.
There have been outbreaks of measles in parts of Europe, England and the United States of America.
A vaccine scare which led to the refusal of parents to have their children immunised has seen an outbreak of measles.
In the first quarter of 2019, there were 231 confirmed cases.