Looking forward to a dramatic impact

In honor of World Immunization Week, April 21 to 28, and the GAVI Alliance’s launch of two vaccines in Ghana on April 26, here is an interview with Dr. Mame Yaa Nyarko, pediatrician and head of Clinical Services at the Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital in Accra. It was conducted by Doune Porter, GAVI Alliance earlier this year.

Pediatrician Dr. Mame Yaa Nyarko examines a child recovering from severe diarrhea in one of her wards at the Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital in Accra. Photo Credit: GAVI/Doune Porter/2012

Dr. Mame Yaa Nyarko maintains a smile as she works. Examining the children in her charge, she takes a moment to comfort them. But the Head of Clinical Services at the Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital in Accra knows that every moment is precious. She has a lot of patients.

“Most of our patients come in with complications from malaria, with diarrheal disease, and with pneumonia,” she says, “It’s quite similar to the national picture. A lot of our children die from pneumonia or from severe dehydration due to diarrheal disease.”

She is looking forward to the changes. On April 26, during WHO’s World Immunization Week, Ghana will introduce pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines to protect its children against the leading cause of pneumonia and diarrhea in young children. Ghana will be the first GAVI-eligible country to launch two new vaccines simultaneously.

“I feel very excited about it,” she says. “I’ve been to several conferences where other countries have shared data on how the vaccines have affected their children under five, the incidence of diarrheal disease and pneumonia, and it’s really dramatic! I’m looking forward to seeing a dramatic response here to these new vaccines.

“Rotavirus vaccines have dramatically reduced the incidence of admittance in hospitals for diarrhea in countries where it has already been introduced. And even if they do get diarrhea, it is likely to be a much milder form and can be treated on an out-patient basis. This will save children being admitted, it will save parents from losing time from work because they have to stay with the children, and it will free up hospital beds as well.

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“The pneumococcal vaccines will protect our children from pneumococcal infection, the leading cause of pneumonia in our environment, especially in children under five years. And pneumococcal infection also causes meningitis and sepsis and some of them unfortunately we lose them because they are severely ill or do not manage to get here on time.

“The burden for those two diseases has been too great. Year in, year out, we have had these two diseases among the most common causes of death and sickness in our children under five. These vaccines will go a long way to changing that.”

Follow the vaccines conversation on Twitter at #vaccineswork. And be sure to stay tuned to the ONE Blog during the next week for more updates on World Immunization Week and GAVI’s launch of the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines in Ghana.