• Covid Vaccine Deployment Taskforce chairman says all vaccines approved by WHO and the government of Kenya, including AstraZeneca, are safe
• The Ministry of Health says Kenyans are rejecting some vaccines due to fake narratives about their impact on fertility.
Covid Vaccine Deployment Taskforce chairman Dr Willis Akhwale has urged all Kenyans who are yet to be vaccinated against the virus to take the jab.
Speaking at Kitengela National Vaccine Depot in Nairobi on Thursday, Dr Akhwale said those eligible for booster shots should visit their closest health centre immediately.
He spoke as he received 200,200 doses of AstraZeneca from the Embassy of Japan, which had been stored at the depot since their arrival in Kenya on April 6. The vaccines were donated by the government of Japan via the Covax facility and transported by Unicef.
“We are very grateful to the government of Japan for their recent donation of Covid-19 vaccines,” Dr Akhwale said.
“This will support the ongoing rollout of Kenya’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign. I would like to emphasise that all vaccines approved by WHO and the government of Kenya, including AstraZeneca, are safe and effective and I would encourage any Kenyan who has not yet been fully vaccinated to visit the closest heath centre,” he added.
So far, about 30 per cent of the targeted population has been vaccinated, but vaccination rate has slowed in the recent past, especially after the government lifted the containment measures.
This has led to 840,000 vaccines expiring.
While the Ministry of Health says some 252,000 doses were being administered daily across the country in February, the number has considerably dropped to less than 30,000. Also affected are the second jabs.
The ministry has said Kenyans are rejecting some vaccines due to fake narratives about their impact on fertility.
"We continue to observe a reluctance to be vaccinated attributed to rumours and misinformation, particularly around fertility fears," the ministry said in a statement on March 23.
The new Japan Ambassador to Kenya, Okaniwa Ken, said the donation builds on his country’s ongoing partnership with the government of Kenya, including in response to Covid-19.
“For many years, Japan has supported Kenya’s health sector, including the attainment of universal health coverage. These vaccines will assist Kenya in its fight against the pandemic.
“The government of Japan has here at Kitengela vaccine depot already provided support to the cold chain in Kenya, by providing ultra-low temperature freezers and other immunization cold chain devices that allow Covid-19 vaccines to be safely stored and transported across the country,” Ambassador Okaniwa said.
Other than providing transport support in the distribution of the vaccines, Unicef is helping the Ministry of Health in deploying and installing cold chain equipment, planning, monitoring, budgeting and capacity building, and distribution of vaccines. With the World Health Organization, they are also supporting the ministry with risk communication and community engagement.
Unicef Representative to Kenya Maniza Zaman said the donation is a welcome boost to Kenya’s ongoing Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
“Covid-19 remains a serious health risk in Kenya to vulnerable and high-risk people and I would urge anyone who is due for their first, second or booster shot to get this immediately. Once again, Unicef is delighted to offer our full support in getting these vital vaccines to Kenya and also in the overall vaccination drive in the country,” Zaman said.
In September last year, Japan donated 12 ultra-low temperature freezers and accessories for storage of Covid-19 vaccines that require very low temperatures of up to -80 °C. The equipment was procured by Unicef with funding from Japan, through its global vaccine initiative ‘Last One Mile Support’.
“Proper cold chain storage facilities are critical for effective distribution of Covid-19 vaccines,” Ambassador Okaniwa said.
The Kitengela National Vaccine Depot and three other regional vaccine depots, were rehabilitated with a grant of Sh826 million through the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2013.