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Lock out civil servants who refuse to take Covid vaccination

By Wilson Sossion | August 16th 2021

The rollout of Covid-19 mass vaccination is important to protect lives, build human capital and stimulate economic recovery. The current crisis is exacerbating economic inequalities.

The trajectory the country’s economy has taken is worrisome. As the coronavirus continues to ravage the workforce, scientific evidence suggests that the Delta variant is more transmissible than prior strains.

Research further shows that majority of workers are unlikely to go for vaccination and thus the government needs to use all available tools to ensure they are immunised.

Notably, Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths are once again rising. Immunisation remains the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures including curfews and lockdowns.

Employers therefore have a responsibility to take reasonable measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees, and the people they serve. Vaccination of all cadres of workers is the most important step employers and the government can take.

That is why the circular by Head of the Public Service Joseph Kinyua on Covid-19 vaccination of public servants deserves support.

The low uptake of Covid-19 vaccines among public servants is perturbing. Vaccination should be made mandatory and those who fail to take the jab be locked out of their work stations.

It should be made compulsory for every citizen, considering that the uptake of vaccine is too low, with only 2 per cent of the population vaccinated.

Countries whose economies are on recovery path like US, China, Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain, Japan, Germany, France among others have invested immensely in vaccination of workers – Kenya should follow suit.

Kenya had made considerable progress with poverty reduction over the last years, but the Covid-19 pandemic has destroyed the livelihoods of many people, pushing an estimated three million Kenyans into poverty, according to the World Bank. The virus has had not only far-reaching implications on the economy, but also varied short-term and long-term impacts on various sectors which has directly affected workers.

Kenya’s economic growth in the pre-Covid-19 period was robust and resilient, expanding by 6.3 per cent in 2018 and 5.4 per cent in 2019. In the absence of Covid-19, the economy was projected to grow by about 6.2 per cent in 2020/2021.

Following the confirmation of the first Covid-19 case in March 2020, the Kenyan economy contracted, and the IMF estimated that Kenya grew by 0.1 per cent in 2020 relative to a growth of 5.4 per cent in 2019.

The crisis has profoundly disrupted education, training and employment of young people.

If mass vaccination of workers is not rolled out in earnest, these effects will endure well beyond the pandemic itself, with profound implications on the achievement of social justice and decent work for all.

Mr Sossion is a member of Parliamentary Committees on Education and Labour

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