Kenya's vaccination coverage is slowly picking up after hitting a 15-year low of 63 percent last year, exposing children below one year to diseases such as polio, pneumonia and tuberculosis.
A scorecard of immunisation performance for January to March 2019 from the Health Ministry shows the coverage is now at 84 percent.
The data shows that children under one year have received one dose of BCG or bacille Calmette-Guerin, which is a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB); another of measles and three doses each of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and pentavalent, pneumococcal vaccines.
The scorecard reveals that 100 percent of children under one in Bomet, Kericho and Kirinyaga counties are fully immunised. Machakos and Vihiga counties are at 96 percent coverage.
The progress, however, is still dismal in Samburu where only 40 percent of children have been fully immunised. The county also has the least number of pregnant women who received tetanus vaccines at 29 percent of the mothers-to-be.
Others with low child immunisation coverage are Murang’a, Isiolo and Mombasa counties, all at 57 percent. Busia recorded 61percent with only 19 percent of pregnant women given tetanus shots.
The scorecard is a sharp contrast with the Economic Survey 2018 which shows the coverage dropped to 69 percent in 2016 and 76 percent in 2013. This was the lowest coverage since 2005.
The survey shows half of children below one year in eight counties did not receive the compulsory vaccination, up from one — Mandera — that has since 2014 had the worst immunisation record among the 47 devolved units.
It is for this reason that the government recently launched a Sh2.1 billion vaccination campaign targeting 400,000 children hoping to raise the immunisation coverage above the national 90 percent target.
The campaign was backed by Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) and the World Bank who play a huge role in financing Kenya’s vaccination campaigns.
Donor support from Gavi for vaccines against influenza, pneumonia, rotavirus and yellow fever has significantly increased.
Data from Gavi shows that support for the anti-pneumonia vaccine to Kenya is increasing from Sh348 million ($3.48 million) in 2018 to Sh1.5 billion ($14.41 million) in 2019.
Under the New Vaccine Support, Gavi has approved its increased funding that amounts to $201.49 million over the last 10 years.
Gavi helps Kenya procure vaccines through a co-financing model, where the government pays 10 percent of the entire budget, while Gavi foots the remaining cost.
If Kenya were to take up the cost of funding its own vaccines, then that would mean money would have to come from the Health ministry’s budget, which is barely enough to meet all the ministry’s financial obligations.
As the country joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Immunisation Week, which aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease, it will be interesting to see if the country will reach its target.
The theme of this year’s campaign is Protected Together: Vaccines Work and the campaign will celebrate ‘vaccine heroes’ from around the world — from parents and community members to health workers and innovators — who help ensure we are all protected, at all ages, through the power of vaccines.