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We must dispel fears about safety of Covid-19 vaccines

By Editorial | March 4th 2021

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe received the first consignment of the Covid-19 vaccine at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Tuesday night.

While receiving the consignment, Mr Kagwe was exuberant that the real war against Covid-19 had just begun. Indeed, he observed that until that moment, we had been fighting the pandemic using what he euphemistically called ‘rubber bullets’.

The vaccine, he said, was the real ammunition needed to fight this war. However, the arrival of the first batch of the vaccine elicited mixed reactions.

Some of the health workers, who are supposed to be among the first group to be vaccinated, have expressed reluctance to take the jab. They prefer to sit on the edge and see what effects, if any, the AstraZeneca vaccine will have on people.

Notably, the phobia of Covid-19 vaccines is not unique to Kenya. Other countries too have been grappling with pockets of resistance, even among health workers. The fear is driven by lack of information and outright disinformation about the vaccines.

But the truth of the matter is the vaccines are working. Countries, where vaccination has been done widely, have reported good progress. In the UK for example, one dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine is said to have reduced the risk of hospitalisation among people aged over 70 per cent by 80 per cent.

In the United States, infections are reported to be falling in areas where people have been vaccinated widely.

The vaccines are effective. Kenyans will not be guinea pigs.

That should Kagwe's new message. The government, and in particular the Ministry of Health, should go the extra mile to dispel any misinformation regarding Covid-19 vaccines.

There is need for aggressive sensitisation campaigns through print, broadcast and social media to create much-needed awareness. Local administrators also have a duty to inform the public about the benefits of Covid-19 jab.

It is noteworthy that rich nations are scrambling for the vaccines and even hoarding them, reducing access for poor chances like Kenya. They cannot be stocking up the poison.

We should encourage our health workers, the elderly and other vulnerable people, who are targeted in the first phase of immunisation to go for the jab. We must all embrace the vaccine(s) so as not to be left behind by the rest of the world.

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