The Ministry of Health will spend Sh800 million for the immunization of 3.5 million children against measles-rubella in the country.
The immunization, targeting children aged between nine to 59 months, is being rolled out in 22 high-risk counties with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and will have temporary sites near residential areas, easing access to children.
Health CAS, Dr Mercy Mwangangi, noted that Kenya remains at constant threat of measles outbreaks with cases attributed to Covid-19 pandemic - reported in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, West Pokot and Tana River counties last year.
“The unprecedented increase in the number of unvaccinated children, accumulation of susceptible children to more than 2.1 million and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemics has compounded this problem,” said Dr Mwangangi, who urged leaders and clergy to help spearhead the campaign which will be conducted through the National Vaccines and Immunization Program (NVIP) from June 26 to July 5.
The campaign will officially be launched in Kajiado, on Friday, June 25, 2021, and Dr Mwangangi noted that “immunization being the most cost-effective public health intervention” and she thus appealed to all parents and caregivers to take advantage of free routine immunization services.
The Ministry of Health’s schedule gives two doses of measles vaccines between 9 and 12 months of age and the second dose between 18 and 24 months of age.
Dr Mwangangi noted that measles is the third most common cause of deaths among children from vaccine-preventable diseases with mortality rates in Kenya at about five per cent, according to WHO.
Most deaths being mainly due to complications- severe diarrhoea, pneumonia, ear infections (Otitis – media) with sometimes presence of pus from the ears, brain damage and blindness.
Rubella like measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause serious health complications to newborns such as birth defects, including heart problems, loss of hearing and eyesight, and brain damage.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles claimed 140,000 lives in 2018, a 58 per cent increase from 2016.
In the West, measles kills children due to the opposition that people have to immunization, while in countries like Kenya, it is due to missing vaccines.
In the last quarter of 2020, West Pokot, Tana River, Wajir, Garissa and Kilifi Counties reported measles outbreak, and two deaths.
The highest number of measles outbreaks were 12, reported at Dadaab Refugee Camp in Garissa, clearly places with fragile immunization programmes.
Acting Health Director-General Dr Patrick Amoth noted that the population is at a greater risk than the birth cohort and “we are sitting on a time bomb,” he said. “We are not far from the DRC case. It is up to us to act individually and collectively to avert this crisis.”
Dr Amoth assured Kenyans that the vaccine is safe, having undergone stringent regulatory approval process.