• Infection among truckers two times higher than healthcare workers across five Kenyan facilities by October 2020.
• Kenya expects to receive 4.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine early next month.
Nearly half of all truck drivers in Kenya have contracted Covid-19, the Kenya Medical Research Institute says.
The finding makes the truckers and their assistants the most-at-risk group in Kenya.
Kemri Wellcome Trust, which conducted the antibody survey, says the truckers should be prioritised when the Covid-19 vaccine arrives next month.
Kenya expects to begin inoculations next month, ahead of a predicted third wave of infection during the long rains season.
The Kemri analysis shows 42.3 per cent of truckers and their turnboys (assistants) have antibodies to the virus, which indicates recent infection.
The finding comes from tests on representative blood samples taken from 830 truck drivers in Kilifi, Busia and at Malaba One-Stop Border posts between September 30 and October 23 last year.
Kemri said Covid-19 prevalence among truckers is similar to that of healthcare workers at the Kenyatta National Hospital but higher than that of health workers in other facilities.
“The findings may inform prioritisation of non-healthcare frontline workers for future interventions such as Covid-19 vaccines,” Kemri reported in a policy brief.
The antibody prevalence in truckers was four times higher than the average seroprevalence among Kenyan blood donors by September 2020, and two times higher among healthcare workers across five Kenyan facilities by October 2020.
“As such, the findings suggest exposure to SARS-CoV-2 among truck drivers and their assistants in Kenya was higher than in the general population and among other frontline workers,” the researchers said.
Most studies globally suggest more infection among truck drivers compared to healthcare workers.
Kemri cited studies in London (45 per cent prevalence among truckers), Indiana, the US (44 per cent), and in Ibadan, Nigeria (45 per cent).
In comparison, globally, antibody prevalence among healthcare workers was placed at nine per cent by August 2020.
According to Kemri, 93 per cent of truckers who tested positive for the virus at the borders by October 23 were asymptomatic.
Kenya expects to receive 4.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine early next month.
According to a schedule shared by the Ministry of Health, at least 1.25 million people will be vaccinated between March and June this year. Each person requires two doses of the vaccine.
During this period, frontline healthcare workers, all staff working in health facilities and workers offering essential services will be inoculated.
The second phase is expected to run from July 2021 to June 2022 during which 9.7 million more Kenyans will receive the jab depending on the availability of the vaccines.
The target population in this phase will be Kenyans aged above 50 and those above 18 years with underlying health conditions.
Plans by the ministry show the third phase of the vaccination drive could run concurrently with the second phase, depending on the adequacy of vaccines, in the hope of reaching 4.9 million people, including all other vulnerable populations.
Edited by F'Orieny
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