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Shortage of drugs bites in city health facilities

Monday, May 20th, 2024 01:55 | By
A new study has associated the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) tuberculosis (TB) vaccine with reduced likelihood of contracting COVID-19. PHOTO/Print
A new study has associated the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) tuberculosis (TB) vaccine with reduced likelihood of contracting COVID-19. PHOTO/Print

Kevin, as he only wants to be identified, had a rough period last week as he shuttled from one health facility to another in search of a polio vaccine for his 10-month-old infant.

He counted up to six health facilities where the  shuttle for the vaccine took him to including, the Level 5 Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital in Embakasi West sub county.

On the fourth day, he breathed a sigh of relief with his so-journey with his wife and baby ending up at the Level 4 Mbagathi County Referral Hospital, where he was lucky enough  to have the infant inoculated.

Kevin told People Daily that in all the health facilities he visited, the answers were the same. “We have not had vaccines for months now.”

He began his journey at next door Kariobangi South Health Centre, but turned away. At Dandora Mission Hospital, Bahati and Makadara health Centres; Kenya Airways Health Centre, and Adams Arcade, it was pretty similar. No vaccines.

“Many people who visited the health facilities were turned away, and told to return on Monday,” he confided.

However, again, people were advised to keep trying other facilities even as they wait for today, to see if they are lucky.

“Imagine if you don’t have money for transport!,” he posed. He was lucky though at the Mbagathi Hospital, but the queues of people seeking for the vaccines were also crazy, he said.

A healthcare worker at the Mowlem Health Centre, a Level 2 dispensary in Embakasi West sub county, responding anonymously as she is not authorised to speak to the media confided that the facility has not had the polio and Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccines, since end of January.

TB vaccines

The BCG vaccine is crucial for the prevention of TB among infants.

“I can’t imagine a baby contracting Tuberclosis because there are no BCG jabs,” said a senior government official, who cannot be quoted authoritatively due to his current position, but has had an opportunity to serve in a critical department at the Ministry of Health in the past.

“I mean if I was still working in the department, I will do all I can to ensure that we have the life-saving vaccines. I will throw tantrums, refuse to work, until they make orders,” said the senior officer who admitted that for the first time in the history of Kenya, the country is in dire shortage of the foundation immunisation jabs.

“We have never witnessed such a situation. This is happening for the first time that the country is experiencing a shortage of vaccines, practically all of them, and we need an urgent solution,” he said, even as the country has to wait a little longer to start producing its own vaccines.

Local manufacturers

Kenya Biovax Institute (KBI) Chief Executive Officer, Dr Michael Lusiola told journalists in Nairobi last week that the institution tasked with the local manufacturing of the inoculation jabs that production will prioritise infant vaccines when it starts operations in 2029.

“Even with the Fill & Finish when we start basic operations in 2027, we will prioritise the children vaccines,” he said during the formal launch of the Health Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Resilience Project (HEPRR) for Eastern and Southern Africa (AFE), which aims to strengthen sustained, comprehensive, and transformational impact on health emergency preparedness, response and resilience.  

Last week, Health Cabinet Secretary, Susan Nakhumicha confirmed the shortages, and attributed it to an outstanding claim of unpaid funds, meant to facilitate the distribution. It’s understood the government owes a global supplier between Sh1.5 billion to Sh2 billion.

“Yes, we have a challenge, but it’s being worked on,” the CS said at Afya House.

Nakhumicha revealed that she had reached out to her National Treasury counterpart, Prof Njuguna Ndung’u and Medical Services Principal Secretary, Harry Kimtai over the issue, and it was acknowledged that the matter requires urgent attention.

“My Ministry is liaising with The National Treasury and Economic Planning, to ensure there is no gap in supply of the vaccines reported to be out of stock,” she said.

The vaccines given to newborns under the Kenya Expanded Programme on Immunization (KEPI) are supplied by the United Nations International Children’s’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and Gavi- the Vaccine Alliance.

“It has come to our attention therefore that counties also need to order,” the CS said, taking note that the Ministry is also being careful so that the country does not completely run out of all the vaccines.

Some of the vaccines reporting stock out include Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), Measles, Polio, and rotavirus and tetanus vaccine.

These particular jabs are given to newborns to provide immunisation against six killer diseases of childhood, namely tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and measles.

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