Let’s develop pandemic preparedness strategy to combat future pandemics- Epidemiologist

Accra, Sept. 30, GNA - Professor Ernest Kenu, an Associate Professor at the Department of Epidemiology and Disease Control, School of Health, University of Ghana, has advised Government to develop a pandemic preparedness and response strategy for the future.

He also asked it to show more political and financial will by investing adequately in the country’s health system to enable it to effectively manage shocks in the future.

Delivering a public lecture at the 5th Biennial Public Lecture in Accra, on the topic: “Strategies to Combat Future Pandemics,” Professor Kenu said as a country, we need to learn from past pandemic experiences to be able to adequately prepare ahead of ones that might come in the future.

He explained that even though Ghana was widely commended for its swift response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the management of the country’s confirmed cases, more casualties could have been averted with a documented preparedness strategy in place.

He said having a well-documented strategy on pandemic management would, therefore, guide the country in responding appropriately to future pandemics and help combat such outbreaks.

“The first point when it comes to being able to combat pandemics in the future is to have documentation of what to do in the next pandemic. You don’t need to know the type of pandemic, but the principles, the steps, what to do, once these ones are in place immediately it occurs refining it and turning it to address that particular pandemic becomes easier,” Professor Kenu explained.

The lecture, organised by the College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana, was under the theme: “An Update on COVID-19 in Ghana. Building a Resilient Strategy to Combat Future Pandemics.”

Professor Kenu said government must make a conscious effort of improving the country’s healthcare system by investing adequately into the sector, to enable it to provide critical care to Ghanaians when needed.

While commending the Ghana Health Service and health professionals for their continuous surveillance on influenzas, he urged them to put in place effective surveillance mechanism to help determine disease outbreaks in the future.

He said: “In fact, what we should quickly understand is that we know the type of viruses and bacteria that can often lead to pandemic and that’s why I am so glad that Ghana is one of the countries that is keeping an eye on the various influenzas that we have and what this country is actually doing is that it is keeping surveillance on them.”

Professor William Ampofo, Coordinator, National Laboratory Network for COVID-19 Testing, said there was the need for critical investment into the country’s laboratory infrastructure to enable it test samples in large quantities during pandemics.

He noted that the country would have been worse off had it not been the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, which allowed the Ghana to conduct testing for the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Going forward, we have seen that there is the need for critical investment into lab infrastructure,” he emphasised.

Professor Ampofo, however, said processes were far advanced for the establishment of the country’s Centres for Disease Control and the National Vaccines Institute, to enable the country to become self-sufficient in vaccines production.

Professor Alfred E. Yawson, Associate Professor, Department of Community Health, University of Ghana, reiterated the need for increased investment in primary health care to help protect the population against the non-communicable diseases.

“Donor support is dwindling and we need to be on our own in support of our system and strengthen monitoring system, adequate surveillance system so that we can detect and identify risks before they hamper the resilience of our health system,” he added.