Infants out of danger as ministry restocks vaccines

Thursday, June 6th, 2024 04:30 | By
A nurse administers an anti-malaria vaccine to a child. PHOTO/Print
A nurse administers an anti-malaria vaccine to a child. PHOTO/Print.

It is a sigh of relief for parents with young children following the arrival of millions of basic doses of vaccines after a sustained civil society and media campaign over shortages.

The Ministry of Health yesterday reported that it was currently processing distribution to the nine regional vaccine stores across the country to address the shortages in the shortest time possible.

In a statement signed by Medical Services Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai, at least 8.3 million have already arrived in the country.

The vaccines include 1,209,500 doses of measles rubella; 3,032,000 doses oral polio (bOPV), 1,000,000 doses tetanus-diptheria, and 3,129,000 doses of BCG.

“To expedite this process, the Ministry of Health has engaged additional refrigerated trucks to ensure these lifesaving vaccines reach our health facilities and communities by the second week of June 2024,” Kimtai said.

The PS also revealed that the Ministry had allocated Sh1.25 billion for the procurement of the routine childhood vaccines.
Immunisation schedule

“As of today, we are pleased to announce the receipt of the four vaccines,” said the PS, calling on healthcare workers to collaborate with community health teams to ensure all children who missed vaccinations return to the facilities and catch up on their immunisation schedule.

“As the vaccines begin arriving, we also urge all caregivers to bring their children back to the facilities for immunisation as vaccine supply has now normalised in the country,” Kimtai said.

The PS expressed gratitude for Gavi support over the years saying it remained committed to ensuring a smooth transition as Kenya moves towards becoming fully self-financing by 2030.

“To achieve this, the Ministry is exploring innovative options for sustainable financing of vaccine procurement and program operations to prevent future stock outs,” he said.

Kimtai also said that the Ministry will continue engaging their counterparts at the National Treasury to ensure increased and dedicated resources towards the immunisation program. He explained that this is meant to ensure stable vaccine supplies.

“Ring-fencing domestic resources will guarantee sustainable financing for immunisation and universal access to vaccines, aligning with our efforts in Primary Health Care,” he emphasised.

Kimtai added; “We acknowledge the role of our immunisation partners, the media, and civil society in amplifying and raising awareness of the vaccine stock out issues.”

Refugee camps

This, he said, indicates a strong health-seeking behaviour in the communities and the excellent demand for vaccines in Kenya. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) that operates in border regions and refugee camps had raised concerns over the implications of vaccines shortage for children in the affected regions.

The committee noted that the shortages not only threatened the health of vulnerable children but also risked undoing significant health advances in the country.

It noted that previous outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases like polio and measles in border regions highlighted an urgent need for intervention, especially given the vulnerability of the affected populations owing to their endless cross-border movement and nomadic lifestyle.

On June 22, 2023 for instance, a suspected case of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) was identified in Garissa county.

By August 31, 2023, eight cases had been confirmed, all originating from the expansive Daadab refugee camp.

Similarly, a measles outbreak in Turkana county resulted in 1,444 cases, with 87 per cent of these in Turkana West Sub County, home to the Kakuma refugee camp. The refugee population is particularly susceptible and vulnerable to such outbreaks due to the constant arrival of new refugees and sanctuary seekers from across the border.

Additionally, the severe overcrowdings with suboptimal water and sanitation facilities in the camps easily propagate the spread and transmission of communicable diseases like polio and measles.

The probability of finding a child with zero dose immunisation status is high in these populations, the Committee warned.

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