Kenya is to impose restrictions on entry to public areas for individuals who haven’t been vaccinated towards COVID-19 from December 21. This, together with the opening up of COVID-19 vaccination to younger individuals over 15, is an try by the federal government to fulfill its nationwide goal of 10 million vaccinated earlier than the brand new yr. Catherine Kyobutungi weighs in on the professionals and cons of Kenya’s vaccination technique.
Is Kenya’s determination on necessary vaccinations the suitable transfer?
Vaccination mandates are untimely in my opinion. The nation has struggled for a lot of months to have enough and freely obtainable vaccine doses. The availability of vaccines has dramatically improved in the previous few weeks and extra doses are anticipated earlier than the top of the yr. However even with this improved provide, it’s not but simple for anybody who desires a vaccine to get one. There ought to be vaccination centres in each nook of the nation which can be accessible at a time that’s handy and at a location that doesn’t require one to spend so much of time or cash to get there.
It is just after vaccines are freely obtainable to everybody at any time when they need them over a sustained time frame that the federal government might contemplate mandates. Some individuals won’t be vaccinated as a result of they haven’t had the chance. This may very well be because of the nature of their work, or as a result of there aren’t any vaccines the place they dwell, research or work. It may also be that some haven’t given it a lot thought but.
What this implies is that mandates ought to be thought-about solely when all of the geographical, monetary and cultural entry points have been addressed. Mandates ought to be a final resort as a result of they create resistance and feed into narratives about vaccines having been developed for nefarious causes. They’re additionally extra prone to punish people who find themselves not privileged sufficient to have sufficient data, money and time (corresponding to for transport) to be vaccinated.
How do you charge Kenya’s COVID-19 vaccination marketing campaign?
There are alternative ways of this. Kenya has completed properly in vaccinating its precedence inhabitants of healthcare staff. Nevertheless, based mostly on the proportion of the entire inhabitants absolutely vaccinated, Kenya is performing worse than another international locations on the continent.
One other disturbing image emerges if you dig a bit deeper. There’s a enormous discrepancy between counties. Nairobi County, which has about 10% of the overall inhabitants, accounts for about one third of all of the adults absolutely vaccinated within the nation. It has a full vaccination protection of 25% whereas some eight counties have lower than 3% of their grownup inhabitants absolutely vaccinated.
What about opening vaccinations to these aged 15 to 18 years?
An enormous proportion of African international locations’ populations are younger individuals. In Kenya the inhabitants under 15 years is about 40%. These between 15 and 19 make up one other 11% of the inhabitants.
Kenya can not obtain herd immunity with out vaccinating its youthful inhabitants. Since there’s a vaccine accepted for youngsters under 18 years, it is sensible that the federal government would need to use that to extend the proportion of vaccinated individuals on the trail in the direction of attaining herd immunity.
Secondly, whereas youthful persons are at comparatively decrease threat for extreme illness, hospitalisation and demise, they aren’t utterly risk-free. Younger individuals even have intense social interactions in colleges or sports activities actions or employment or whereas socialising. They’re additionally a hyperlink to their households and communities.
A college-based strategy might imply that a big % of this inhabitants might be simply reachable.
It’s subsequently vital to vaccinate this inhabitants, to cut back transmission on the inhabitants degree and inch in the direction of herd immunity and decrease even additional the residual threat for an infection, extreme illness and demise within the youthful age teams.
Having mentioned that, the federal government must have a focused communications marketing campaign. For a while it has centered on precedence teams that presumably have been at excessive threat, so a shift in the direction of inhabitants teams with perceived low threat of the illness must be fastidiously communicated.
The drawback of beginning vaccinations on this inhabitants with out enough focused communication is that there could also be hesitancy pushed by sturdy narratives a couple of low threat of extreme illness and excessive threat of problems from the vaccines in youthful individuals. Whereas that is false, it is a narrative that must be countered.
Has Kenya completed sufficient to fulfill the targets it has set?
There are some indications that the speed of vaccine uptake has elevated in the previous few weeks. That is pushed by tremendously improved provide, the approaching mandates, the enlargement of the eligible teams (the well being ministry expanded eligibility to 18 years and above a number of weeks in the past), and probably information of the Omicron variant.
The federal government must do every thing to extend uptake. For instance, it ought to have customised methods for various segments of the inhabitants. These would goal individuals in extremely vaccinated counties like Nairobi who’re eligible and nonetheless unvaccinated. One other would tackle individuals in poorly vaccinated counties who want to get vaccinated however haven’t had the chance.
Catherine Kyobutungi, Government Director, African Inhabitants and Well being Analysis Middle