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Ministry assures Kenyans over vaccine shortages

Health & Science
Health CS Susan Nakhumicha with Medical Services PS Harry Kimtai. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Ministry of Health has moved to dispel fears of a looming crisis due to the ongoing acute shortage of essential vaccines, which has left children across the country vulnerable to deadly but preventable diseases.

In a statement signed by Principal Secretary for Medical Services Harry Kimtai, the ministry acknowledged the gravity of the situation but proposed mitigation measures.

Kimtai admitted that the available national  stock of the BCG, OPV, and measles rubella vaccines may last less than two months.

"These stock-outs put our children and vulnerable populations at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases and potential outbreaks," Kimtai said.

Donor-supported vaccines like those meant to prevent pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, HPV, and malaria can only last the country between three and six months. Dr Kimtai further outlined the ministry's urgent mitigation strategies, which include redistributing existing stocks nationwide.

The ministry is also expediting deliveries of already paid for orders from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), expected by early June.

Dr Kimtai noted that a further Sh1.25 billion has also been allocated to procure routine vaccines and replenish dwindling national stocks.

The shortages have disrupted routine immunisation services even in counties, leaving thousands of Kenyan infants and children susceptible to debilitating and potentially fatal illnesses like polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, and measles.

In a letter to Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha dated May 16, the Council of Governors raised an alarm over the lack of vaccines in all 47 counties for the past three months.

The shortages have affected critical vaccines routinely administered to newborns and children under five years old, including BCG for tuberculosis, oral and inactivated polio vaccines (OPV & IPV), measles rubella (MR), rotavirus, and tetanus diphtheria vaccines. [Maryann Muganda]

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