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VACCINATION HEADACHE

10 million Covid vaccines lying idle worries ministry

An additional four million doses are expected in the country before the end of the month

In Summary

•To date, more than 24.6 million doses of vaccines have been received in Kenya with 13.7 million having been administered across the country.

•An additional four million doses are expected in the country before the end of the month as per projections by the ministry

Health CS Mutahi kagwe during the launch of mass vaccination drive in Dagoretti on February 3 targeting to have 10 million vaccinations in 10 days
Health CS Mutahi kagwe during the launch of mass vaccination drive in Dagoretti on February 3 targeting to have 10 million vaccinations in 10 days

Kenya has close to 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines lying in the stores, some of them with a fast approaching expiry date.

Despite the Health ministry previously maintaining that only vaccines donations with a shelf life of at least 90 days are allowed in the country, their slow uptake has become a new headache.

To date, more than 24.6 million doses of vaccines have been received in Kenya with 13.7 million having been administered across the country.

They include 6.9 million first doses, 6.3 million fully vaccinated people, 285,456 doses administered to teens aged between 15 and 17 years and 193,591 booster shots.

An additional four million doses are expected in the country before the end of the month as per projections by the ministry.

The Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has noted that unless uptake is accelerated, the vaccines risk going to waste.

The vaccines deployment task force chair Willis Akhwale earlier said the shelf life of Johnson & Johnson vaccine is two years and can be stored in normal refrigerators.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe in Dagoreti on February 3
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe in Dagoreti on February 3

“Even with the best of preservation facilities, these vaccines have a shelf life beyond which their expiry and disposal will be inevitable. This will be highly unconscionable considering the large number of unvaccinated Kenyans who need them,” Kagwe said.

“Unless we think and act fast on effective ways of accelerating this uptake, we risk rendering to waste huge public resources and those of our development partners that have been spent to secure the vaccines,” he added.

The African Union in late November raised concern that most of the donated vaccines have short shelf life and little notice.

A number of African nations have had to throw away jabs, even though the continent has fully inoculated less than 10 per cent of its 1.3 billion populations.

The ministry last week launched a 10-day mass vaccination drive targeting to reach at least 10 million people in 10 days. This means at least one million vaccinations should be done in a single day.

However, data from the ministry shows that 242,166 jabs were administered on Thursday last week, 249,772 on Friday, 226,615 on Saturday, 199,785 on Sunday and 150,632 on Monday.

This means 1,068, 970 jabs have been issued in the first five days short of 8.9 million of the targeted 10 million by end of the 10 days.

The CS has however noted that the country has made good progress with the vaccination drive, with the uptake among the elderly population that had been a concern beginning to rise.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during the launch of mass vaccination drive in Dagoreti on February 3
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during the launch of mass vaccination drive in Dagoreti on February 3

For instance, the data shows that the number of people above the age of 58 years who are fully vaccinated has nearly doubled during the past eight weeks from 20 per cent at the beginning of December to 40 per cent currently.

“This is very good progress since this is the category that is most at risk of severe disease and death and wish to commend our vaccination teams for reaching out more to this group,” Kagwe said.

He added, “It is important to note that despite this remarkable achievement, we still need to have more in this category fully vaccinated. I dare say, while 40 per cent is good, 100 per cent is better.”

The plan is to vaccinate at least 19 million people by end of June, and the entire eligible population of 27 million by end of the year.

The ministry has so far installed freezers to strengthen the country’s cold chain system to ensure the administration of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, trained and equipped over 8,000 health workers and opened over 3,000 vaccination posts across the country.

The national government is also currently supporting county governments to conduct outreaches, scale up social mobilisation and carry out robust communication campaigns.