Committee expresses worry over Health Minister’s absence for briefing on vaccine shortage

By Iddi Yire/Elsie Appiah-Osei

Accra, Feb 28, GNA – The Parliamentary Select Committee on Health Tuesday expressed concern over the absence of the Health Minister, Mr Kweku Agyeman Manu, at a joint meeting with the Finance Committee to find ways of resolving the vaccine shortage. 

Dr Nana Ayew Afriyie, Chairman of the Health Committee and Member of Parliament (MP) for Effiduase Asokore, said the joint meeting would have been a great opportunity for the minister or his representative to clarify to Ghanaians the circumstances surrounding the shortage of vaccines in the country. 

He said the Chief Director of the Health Ministry had, in a phone conversation on the morning of the meeting, informed him that the minister was not available but would meet them on March 7 to respond to the issue. 

He mentioned that although the Ghana Health Service and the Vaccines Control Programme were also invited to the meeting, they both failed to attend. 

He commended the representatives of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) for attending upon the Committee to update it on their payments for vaccines. 

Responding to a call by Mr Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, the Ranking Member on the Health Committee and MP for Juabuso, and Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka, MP for Asawase, to subpoena the Health Minister, Dr Afriyie said that was a good one and the absence, therefore, would trigger a censor. 

“So, I would probably discuss it with the Committee a bit more…. but I agree with the point of subpoena”  

Mr Francis Owusu, the Deputy Chief Executive for Finance, NHIA, informed the Committee that the Authority was not in arrears in terms of payment for vaccines. 

In 2022, on the allocation formula, GHS 72 million was allocated to vaccines. 

“And as we speak today, we have made payment of GHS 71.8 million, so we are not in arrears,” he said. 

The payment made was in four tranches; the first one was on June 29, which was GHS 25 million, the second on October 7, GHS 10.75 million, third on November 22;  GHS 13.1 million, and the last on December 31, which was GHS 23 million. 

Mr Richard Agyeman-Badu, the Acting Director Budget and Management Accounting, NHIA, explained that for the vaccines payment, the Authority usually issued a letter to the Bank of Ghana, authorised it to debit its account with the cedi and credit the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) account with its dollar equivalent.