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Sharp drop in Covid-19 vaccine uptake after relaxation of containment measures

A healthcare worker vaccinate an old woman during the launch of Covid-19 Mass Vaccination Drive held at Dagoretti Deputy County Commissioner’s Office in Nairobi on February 3, 2022. [Stafford Ondego, Standar

Kenya risks expiry and wastage of Covid-19 vaccines after the Ministry of Health noted with concern apathy by the general population to go for vaccination, after relaxation of containment measures.

This comes as health experts call for intensified community and hospital surveillance to control a resurgence of respiratory diseases.

Acting Director of Medical Services Dr Andrew Mulwa regretted the majority of Kenyans assume that the virus is no longer a threat.

“The population seems not to see the need of getting jabbed, which may hurt, in case there is a resurgence of cases,” said Dr Mulwa.

As per the ministry’s data, a total of 17,129,923 vaccines have been administered across the country, out of which, 7,926,069 are partially vaccinated and some 7,835,495 people are fully vaccinated.

“Proportion of adults fully vaccinated was 28.8 per cent,” reads a section of the ministry’s report.

On Sunday, at least 8,518 vaccines were administered, a sharp drop from 41,929 administered on March 12.

The number of vaccines administered on March 13 and March 14, also dropped to 8,518 and 4,136 respectively.

To scale up vaccination, the official said the ministry is engaging with community leaders and health workers to reach out to eligible people to pick up the jab.

During the mass 10-day vaccination campaigns across the country, some 4.5 million doses were administered.

The University of Nairobi Co-director, Center for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis and Associate Professor, Washington State University, Prof Thumbi Mwangi, said the surest way to contain the pandemic was through vaccination “to avoid risks of change in Covid-19.” 

Prof Matilu Mwau, an infectious disease specialist, also deputy director at Kemri said vaccines stimulate a strong immune system to the body as the natural immunity, caused through infection, "is not a strong stimulator of immune response to coronavirus."

Though the vaccines are not perfect, he said scientists are going to "continue strengthening the vaccine in terms of efficacy and longevity for protection,” explained Prof Mwau.

According to Prof Mwangi, surveillance will help pick new outbreaks, for informed decision-making adding that "appropriate pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions should be considered."

Dr Mulwa noted that the government is maintaining epidemic control through revamped surveillance.

“The low rate of infection does not mean the country will reduce surveillance, adding that “testing is still ongoing, with at least 5,000 samples tested every single day.”

A total of 3,440,216 tests have been conducted since the pandemic was reported in the country.

Out of the total tests, at least 323,183 samples have turned positive, while fatalities stand at 5,645.

Even with the lifting of the masking mandate, he said the population need to adhere to washing hands with soap and water and sanitise.

The country should also keep a watch on what is happening globally, for speedy action, in case of a new variant and a surge in infections.

“The public should remain cautious, we still need to put on masks, when indoors and in crowded spaces,” he advised.

Globally, there is a surge of infections in China, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) having raised an alarm over the spread of the Deltacron variant of the Coronavirus could be the next global major concern.

The variant, with traits from Delta and Omicron variants of concern, is reported to be widespread in France, Holland and Denmark, in Europe.

On Tuesday last week, the chief scientist at WHO Dr Soumya Swaminatha tweeted “We have known that recombinant events can occur, in humans or animals, with multiple circulating variants of #SARSCoV2”

According to a study by MedRxiV, more cases of the variant have also been identified in the United States of America (USA),

As per WHO data, the USA is currently reporting about 37,524 cases every day.

In the medRxiV study published on March 8, Deltacron was confirmed through genome sequencing conducted by experts at IHU M di terra Infection in Marseille, France, and is spread in various parts of France.

According to scientific studies, the variant was created through the recombination process, which occurs when at least two variants of the virus infect a patient, concurrently and exchange genetic material that generates a new progeny.

WHO General Director Dr Tedros Adhanom said on Wednesday that many countries in Asia and the Pacific are reporting a surge in cases and fatalities.

“Although reported cases and deaths are declining globally, and several countries have lifted restrictions, the pandemic is far from over – and it will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere,”

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