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The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, has refuted social media claims by some Ghanaian vaccine sceptics and critics that no clinical trials were carried out before the introduction of the new anti-malaria vaccines into the country.

Ghana, on Tuesday, 30 April 2019 rolled out the world's only proven malaria vaccine for infants as part of a landmark campaign against the deadly mosquito-borne disease, one week after Malawi became the first country to do so.

Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, mainly in Africa, and it is hoped a vaccine will bring down the toll.

Children are especially at risk, and babies were Ghana's first vaccine recipients on Tuesday in the town of Cape Coast, 150 kilometres (90 miles) west of the capital Accra.

"I hope this will help us to be able to eliminate malaria so Ghana can be a malaria-free country," said Justice Arthur, the doctor running the clinic.

Speaking in an interview on Monday, 6 May 2019, Dr Nsiah-Asare explained that the vaccine had gone through the stages of trial and testing as with all other vaccines that have ever been introduced, and refuted.

“The clinical trials are in stages, we do the first clinical trial with a few people, maybe with about thirty, maximum fifty people, which was done on soldiers who have gone to malaria endemic areas, have malaria before, tested positive from the US and resurging countries; people are saying that it has never been tested with the whites, it’s not true”, Dr Nsiah- Asare said.

He said during the state two of the trials, “you increase the number of people and then you do stage three”. “Luckily”, he pointed out, “Ghana took part in the stage three clinical trials in two stations, two areas at Kintampo and at Agogo. I’m aware because I was in Kumasi. The Agogo one was being done through the School of Medical Sciences [of the] Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and Kintampo Research Centre of the Ghana Health Service did the Kintampo trial”.

According to Dr Nsiah-Asare, “They did it in seven different endemic areas because they wanted to see. If you want to do vaccination, it’s better you concentrate on children. Malaria kills over 400, 000 children every year, so, the clinical trial stage three concentrated on children. Three; the beneficial effects of this vaccine on our children, poor children and they did it in seven countries with a population of about 15, 000 children.

“And this clinical trial was done from about 2009 to 2013, after the clinical trials, it goes through rigorous monitoring and evaluation. They follow the children, they’re still following the children up till today. We have some children who took part in the clinical trials who are now big children and this is being done for every vaccine invented because all the vaccines – our measles vaccines, polio vaccines – went through the same stages.

“So, after the clinical trial and after all the associations, European Medicine Association, World Health Organisation and all other health organisations and researchers sat down and analysed it, and then it has been agreed that: let’s go to the next stage, which is the piloting implementation”, he told Accra-based Citi FM.

Dr Nsiah-Asare also explained that Ghana applied as one of the three countries in the endemic areas to take part in the pilot implementation programme, hence the current programme being run in Ghana.

“The pilot implementation is being done, which is what we’re doing now. Now we’re in the pilot implementation stage where we do it in some countries, in three countries in an endemic area.”

“Ghana applied in 2016 and in July 2016, we were chosen as one of the three countries including Malawi and Kenya to do the pilot implementation stage.”

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