The government has taken delivery of 3,408 vaccine storage fridges and cold boxes it has procured to boost immunisation in the country.
The items, valued at $8 million, will enhance Ghana’s capacity to deploy a variety of vaccines with different storage (temperature) requirements.
The storage facilities comprise 58 ultra-low temperature vaccine freezers, 50 normal vaccine fridges, 3,000 ice pack freezers and 300 cold boxes.
Also expected as part of the procurement are 18 distribution cold vans, which the Ministry of Health said were on their way into the country.
The Minister of Health, Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, presenting the items to the Ghana Health Service in Accra yesterday, said the logistics would enable Ghana to deploy a wide range of vaccines, irrespective of their temperature requirements, for the fight against the coronavirus.
He said each vaccine had unique characteristics and different temperature requirements for storage and movement — known as cold chain requirements — from the point of manufacture to the syringe.
The minister said until now, the country had been using vaccine storage facilities of temperatures between 2°C and 8°C.
“We were, therefore, restricted to vaccines that required these storage temperatures. We were restricted to AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Johnson & Johnson, etc., which offered us supplies in limited quantities,” Mr. Agyeman-Manu said.
The minister also indicated that with a number of countries resorting to the same vaccines Ghana was seeking to procure, it had become difficult to get adequate supplies from the manufacturers.
To continue that way meant that Ghana would not be able to achieve its target of reaching herd immunity, he stated.
“To overcome this challenge and widen the range of vaccines for the COVID-19 immunisation, we initiated efforts to procure more of the vaccine fridges and freezers that can provide us with storage temperatures from 83°C to 8°C.
“In this case, we will be able to import any of the approved vaccines,” Mr. Agyeman-Manu said, describing the move as a major landmark in the national fight against COVID-19.
Health experts, including the Manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), Dr. Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, have explained that the purpose of the vaccine cold chain is to maintain product quality from the time of manufacture until the point of administration.
It is also to ensure that vaccines are stored and transported within World Health Organisation-recommended temperature ranges.
He explained that a vaccine was a biological product, and that if it got too hot or cold, the active ingredients could degrade and become less effective.
“So the vaccine cold chain is a global network of cold rooms, freezers, refrigerators, cold boxes and carriers that keep vaccines at just the right temperature during each link on the long journey from the manufacturing line to the syringe,” Dr. Amponsa-Achiano explained.