TRANSPORT CHALLENGE

Concern as uptake in HPV, measles vaccines stagnates

Parents, caregivers urged to present children for routine childhood vaccination.

In Summary

• The ministry introduced the HPV vaccine for prevention of cervical cancer into the routine immunisation schedule in 2019 

• This has been partly been blamed on a weak vaccine transport system from the regional depot to subcounties.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe flags off 21 additional vehicles to improve transport in the Immunization Programme in the country on May 5, 2022
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe flags off 21 additional vehicles to improve transport in the Immunization Programme in the country on May 5, 2022
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

The Ministry of Health has decried an extremely low uptake of the second dose of routine immunisation vaccines such as measles rubella and HPV in the country.

Although the ministry strives to reach at least 90 per cent of children with lifesaving vaccines, immunisation coverage has stagnated at 80 per cent with some of the vaccines like HPV and the second dose of measles rubella falling behind at 41 per cent and 57 per cent respectively.

The ministry introduced the HPV vaccine for prevention of cervical cancer into the routine immunisation schedule in 2019 and aims to reach at least 800,000 girls per year.

This has been partly been blamed on a weak vaccine transport system from the regional depot to subcounties.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe flags off 21 additional vehicles to improve transport in the Immunization Programme in the country on May 5, 2022
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe flags off 21 additional vehicles to improve transport in the Immunization Programme in the country on May 5, 2022
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

“We recognize that arrangements have been in place to use alternative transport such as public vehicles, ambulances and ‘borrowing’ from other departments in the absence of dedicated immunization programme vehicles,” Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said.

“These alternative transport arrangements are not always guaranteed thus resulting in an inadequate and unreliable distribution system,” he noted.

Acting Health DG Dr. Patrick Amoth at a past event acknowledged that the HPV vaccine had been negatively affected by Covid-19 pandemic due to long closures of schools yet the vaccine targeted the age group targeted of 10 to 14 years. This led to a drop in coverage from more than 57 per cent to just about 30 per cent.

The ministry is now calling on all parents and caregivers with children to present them for routine childhood vaccination at the right age and time to ensure their girls have received two doses of the HPV vaccine, six months apart.

“All children should have received two doses of measles vaccines by the time they are two years, and any child who is yet to complete the two doses of measles or any other vaccine should be presented at the nearest health facility,” he added.

Nyamira County has been recognised as the best performing county overall in immunization, Nyeri county as the best performing county in Covid-19 immunization and Tana-River County as the best performing ASAL county in immunization.

To address some of the challenges being faced, the ministry with the support from Gavi initially procured 17 double Cabin Pick up EPI vehicles for 17 selected target counties while each of the 47 counties received a motorbike.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during the flag off 21 additional vehicles to improve transport in the Immunization Programme in the country on May 5, 2022
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during the flag off 21 additional vehicles to improve transport in the Immunization Programme in the country on May 5, 2022
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Gavi later provided additional support to procure 21 more vehicles to improve transport in the Immunization Programme.

The 21 vehicles were dispatched to the respective counties on Thursday.

According to Amoth, there is a disparity between counties in terms of coverage with some having vaccination coverage of as low as 60 per cent.

“The gap in vaccination means there are several children who do not have immunity against these vaccine preventable diseases. Outbreaks of measles continue to occur in different parts of the country evidence of low immunity to measles,” Amoth said.

Despite Kenya having introduced new vaccines that were previously not accessible over the past 10 years, one in six children do not complete the scheduled vaccines.