The number of children vaccinated in the six months to June fell by 5.7 percent from a similar period last year due to Covid-19 restrictions, exposing children below one year to diseases such as polio, pneumonia and tuberculosis.
Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Mercy Mwangangi told Parliament the State vaccinated 600,000 children down from 643,000 in a similar period last year.
“There is marginal reduction of absolute number of children reached for immunisation from a monthly average of 107,300 last year to an average of 98,000 children for the period after onset of Covid-19,” Dr Mwangangi said during a virtual meeting with the National Assembly’s Health committee.
She told the committee that the number of children immunised is expected to decline further due to cash and logistical challenges in acquiring the vaccines.
Review of the health budget to target coronavirus reduced the budget allocation for buying vaccines.
Full immunisation refers to children below one year who have received one dose of BCG, another of measles and three doses each of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and pentavalent, pneumococcal vaccines.
The national immunisation coverage recovered last year to 84 percent after dipping a 15-year low of 63 percent in 2018 due a five-month nurses’ strike.
Dr Mwangangi said the restriction on movement of people and imposition of curfew in March initially affected ability of health workers and clients to access health facilities.
“Restriction of movements on people affected scheduling of shipments and clearance of vaccines and related logistics into the country,” Dr Mwangangi said.
She said restrictions on meetings and the need for social distancing meant most planned immunisation strengthening activities were put on hold.
“Most of these activities involves community mobilisation, health-worker engagement, outreaches, microplanning meetings and other supplementary immunisation activities. Most of which wouldn’t be done remotely,” she said.