Kenya is set to immunize 400,000 children in the next 100 days in an ambitious campaign launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi today.
The campaign, dubbed accelerated immunization outreach, is aimed at raising the vaccination coverage which has remained stable at 80 per cent, below the national target of 90 per cent.
Speaking when he presided over the official send-off of specialist doctors from Cuba, Mr Kenyatta underscored the importance of immunization as a key component of the ongoing drive towards the realization of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), a key deliverable in his Big 4 development agenda.
"The failure to immunize children will not only undermine their health and human dignity but will also occasion national risks such as disease outbreaks. I am therefore pleased to launch the national rapid results initiative on child immunization which will increase the number of children that are immunized against killer diseases," he said.
Further, the president challenged the ministries of health and education to prioritize the immunization of school-going children in the country stating that it is his desire to have all children immunized before they join school.
"I urge the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to work closely with County Governments to put in place measures to ensure that all children are vaccinated by the time they join school," Mr Kenyatta said.
On the 100 specialist doctors from the Republic of Cuba who are in the country as part of a bilateral arrangement with Kenya, he hailed the arrangement stating that Kenya's health sector stands to benefit.
"The 100 Cuban doctors specializing in cardiology, nephrology and neurosurgery, amongst other specializations, are now ready to move to the counties and I am delighted to formally send them off to deliver the much needed services to the people of Kenya. Let us embrace and support them."
Speaking at the event held at the Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) depot in Embakasi, Nairobi, Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said that the launch of the immunization drive which included release of a variety of medical equipment, motorcycles and vehicles for use by health personnel would ensure a wider access to children in all corners of the country.
Touching on the subject of Cuban doctors, the CS said her ministry was ready to welcome the specialists whose experience in primary healthcare provision will go a long way in strengthening Kenya’s efforts to achieve universal healthcare.
Also present at the event was Cuba's ambassador to Kenya, Ernesto Gomez Diaz, who said that the deployment of the specialist doctors was key in cementing the growing bilateral relationship between Kenya and Cuba.
The envoy observed that more than 400,000 Cuban doctors work in 65 countries across the globe and those in Kenya are willing to share their experience even as they learn from their local counterparts.
On his part, Isiolo Governor Mohamed Kuti who is also the chairperson of the health committee of the Council of Governors said that counties ready and grateful to the national government for both the Cuban doctors as well as the roll out of the aggressive immunisation campaign.
Governor Kuti added that days when county governments were in constant competition and acrimony with the national government are long gone and that the two levels of government are pursuing a path of win-win engagements.
"The successful deployment of the Cuban doctors to the Counties and the official roll out of the immunization campaign signals a new era of a mutually beneficial relationship between the national and county governments," Mr Kuti said.
The Cuban doctors dispatched to the Counties today comprise critical care physicians, cardiologists, oncologists, radiologists, orthopaedic surgeons, maxillofacial surgeons and plastic reconstructive surgeons among other specializations and were allocated to Counties based on Kenya's disease burden spread.