- Covid-19 has demonstrated how easy an infectious disease can easily be a global public health problem in today's global village.
- But efforts to eliminate and control it seem to be inadequate.
- A responsible government should have set its own plan on how to access vaccines because the pandemic has been a double-edged sword — a public health as well as an economic problem.
Covid-19 has demonstrated how easy an infectious disease can easily be a global public health problem in today's global village. But efforts to eliminate and control it seem to be inadequate.
First, the national vaccination programme which the government has rolled out is almost three months late. The government had targeted starting mass vaccination in January only to start it this month.
It claims access to the vaccine was the hinderance, but didn’t quite explain how it would get hold of an effective vaccine by the planned January. It only waited for the COVAX — global lobby group for vaccine access.
The African Union also needed it to assess African countries’ preparedness and those that had one in place were prioritised to get the vaccines
A responsible government should have set its own plan on how to access vaccines because the pandemic has been a double-edged sword — a public health as well as an economic problem.
Coming to the vaccination programme itself, the government intends to roll out the mass campaign in three phases. The first phase, which was to start from January 2021 to May 2021, targets 1.25 million frontline workers. The second phase will start in July 2021 to June 2022, a whole year, when the government will be targeting the most vulnerable, including the elderly and those above 18 years with comorbidities. The third phase will start in July 2022 to July 2023, with the government targeting other vulnerable groups of people of 18 years and above in congregations and hospitality and tourism industry. At the end of the three phases, the government expects to have vaccinated about 30 percent of the Kenyan population.
This is a travesty because for any country to say it’s out of the woods, it needs to have a herd immunity of 70 percent of its total population.
If Kenya will be at 30 percent in 2023 that means we will achieve herd immunity in the next six years. This means that we will have to be under on-and-off lockdowns in the next years. Is this government really serious about handling this pandemic?
From the funding, GAVI will be funding vaccination of 20 percent of the population whilst the government will fund 10 percent of the other population under the three-phase vaccination programme.
So, the question is, what happens to the rest of the population? This is a public health problem that the government needs to lead, coordinate and fund its reduction and control, but we have a government that doesn't seem to have that understanding. It is anyone's guess here that the rest of the population will be paying out of their pocket for their vaccination, which raises concern about vaccine equity. Is there part of the Kenyan population that pays more taxes and should be prioritised against the rest?
We have seen the government throwing billions of shillings at unnecessary and no-value-for-money projects against the opportunity cost of investing in mass vaccination. Is this a government that prioritises the life of its people and taxpayers that fund it?
Kenya will also not be out of the woods anytime soon because it needs to get out of it together as a region. In the 1930s when the world was fighting small pox, Kenya was successful with a mass vaccination campaign together with surveillance and rapid response and had three years with no incidence.
Then a small epidemic of small pox was later reported in North Eastern among herders crossing Kenya-Somalia border. At the same time in Uganda, small pox re-appeared for the first time in many years and was attributed to visitors from India and a pilgrim returning from Mecca
So, in the current case where Tanzania and Burundi have not prioritised mass vaccination of their population, the region stands to stay in the pandemic for the long haul.
And with 70 percent of the population left out in the government mass vaccination programme, we will be seeing reoccurrence of Covid-19 waves many times.