STRATEGY

Stop wasting money giving Covid vaccines to everyone — Kemri

Says taking doses to people above 50 years will save both lives and money

In Summary
  • Young people have an extremely low risk of death and high natural immunity from past exposure.
  • According to the Ministry of Health, vaccinations have already dropped from a high of 100,000 people a day to the current average of 8,000. 
A sick, elderly woman receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine recently.
MOST AT RISK: A sick, elderly woman receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine recently.
Image: REUTERS

The Ministry of Health has been advised to stop wasting money and resources by targeting everyone with the Covid-19 vaccines.

The Kemri-Wellcome Trust Research Programme said the government should specifically target elderly people above 50.

Wellcome Trust said this will not only save the country money but also prevent most deaths.

It said taking the vaccines to younger people with no underlying medical conditions is wasteful because they have an extremely low risk of death and high natural immunity from past exposure.

Recent studies show 85 per cent of Kenyans, mostly young people, have already had Covid-19 and therefore have some natural immunity.

The Wellcome Trust recommendation is drawn from its latest modelling on Covid-19 vaccine scale-up within the country.

The analysis found that the country’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign can achieve greater value for money if it focuses on the elderly, rather than scaling up vaccines to the whole population. 

Prof Edwine Barasa, director at the Nairobi programme of the Kemri-Wellcome Trust said this new data suggests that we can fight Covid more effectively by re-focusing our efforts on those who need it most.

“Vaccines work; and ensuring older adults and other at-risk groups receive them quickly is the best way to achieve greater health outcomes and is better value for money.

"We hope this data helps policymakers across the continent determine how to structure impactful, cost-effective, long-term Covid-19 responses,” he said. 

The Ministry of Health says vaccinations have already dropped from a high of 100,000 people a day to the current average of 8,000. 

The proportion of adults fully vaccinated is currently about 30.6 per cent.

However, the ministry plans a scale up because of the impending fifth wave of infections expected at any time.

The Kemri-Wellcome Trust research team said it modelled a broad range of Covid vaccine scale-up scenarios and tested each one for cost-effectiveness and its impact on the spread of the disease.

These forecasts estimate what would happen if vaccine scale-up reached 30 per cent, 50 per cent or 70 per cent of the Kenyan population, under both slow (18 month) and rapid (six month) scenarios.

A no vaccination scenario was modelled as a baseline. In all cases, the model scales up vaccination to adults over 50 years before extending to the broader population. 

Reaching 30 per cent coverage with priority given to adults over 50 averts a substantial number of new infections and deaths – 32 per 100,000 new infections and 8,100 deaths in the 18-month (slow) scenario, and 39 per 100,000 infections and 9,400 deaths in the rapid (six-month) scenario.

A threshold of 50 per cent and subsequently 70 per cent would avert an additional 1,100 deaths under the slow scenario and an additional 400 deaths in the rapid scenario. 

The research found that scaling-up to 30 per cent vaccine coverage is highly cost-effective; while the 50 per cent and 70 per cent scenarios were not, given the lower risk of severe disease, death and high natural immunity due to previous exposure.

Prof Joachim Osur, Public Health Specialist and the Vice Chancellor, Amref International University said the critical analysis can help sharpen our focus as we try and balance Covid vaccination campaigns with other essential health programmes.

“It is time to integrate Covid fully into our regular health system, so we can right-size our vaccine programme, while also regaining ground against other infectious diseases, such as HIV, TB and malaria,” he said.

(Edited by Bilha Makokha)  

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