She said although newborns were vaccinated against the virus six weeks after birth, the gap from birth to the time, exposed many children to the infection often leaving a lifelong effect on them and derailing efforts at eliminating Hepatitis.
DrAgyei-Nkansahmade the call at a stakeholders meeting, to commemorate this year’s World Hepatitis Day (WHD), on the theme: “Bringing Hepatitis care closer to communities-Hep can’t wait.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all infants receive the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours, followed by two or three doses of hepatitis B vaccine at least 4 weeks apart to complete the vaccination series.
Ghana was yet to administer a birth dose vaccine for the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) although about one million babies are delivered through the health system annually.
According to Dr Agyei-Nkansah, the Senior Lecturer at the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics of the University of Ghana Medical School, though one could be infected with viral Hepatitis through sex, body fluids, infected medical equipment among others, mother-to-child transmissions was the major means of transmission in the country.
“About 70percent of all new HBV infections in the country was through mother-to-child transmission contributing to about 60 to 80 per cent of all liver cancer cases in Ghana,” she noted.
Dr Agyei-Nkansah said, HBV was most prevalent in the Northern sector of the country with pregnant mothers between the ages of 15 to 30 years being major transmitters of the virus.
“These areas have the least developed healthcare systems yet the prevalence is high there. We must urgently close the gap between birth and six weeks to adequately protect our newborns because 90 percent of these children infected by their mothers may actually live with the virus all their life but that can be averted by the birth dose,” she said.
Dr Agyei-Nkansah encouraged members of the public to test to know their HBV status and follow through with recommended protocols to reduce health risks.
The Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, advocated more education to the public on hepatitis B in order to curb the situation.
He assured that government was making tireless effort to procure birth dose vaccines against Hepatitis.
Dr Asiedu-Bekoe appealed to corporate entities to support the fight against the disease financially.
The President of Ghana Association for the Study of Liver and Digestive Diseases (GASLIDD), Professor Yaw Asante Awuku, said there was the need to create more access to Hepatitis B and C treatment.
“Few babies have access to the hepatitis B birth dose vaccine while only 10 and 21 per cent of people know that they live with chronic hepatitis B or C, we ask that multi-sector action, is taken to operationalise hepatitis programmes which promotes integration, decentralisation and task shifting to improve access” he said.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH AND ANITA ANKRAH