Health ministry says all preparations in place to receive, distribute COVID-19 vaccines


Health ministry says all preparations in place to receive, distribute COVID-19 vaccines
FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/

As Kenya looks forward to receiving the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in mid-February, the Ministry of Health says the country is ready to store and distribute the vaccine to the targeted groups.

But the growing vaccine mistrust and misinformation could undermine efforts to reach the desired groups, with the government now looking to use open dialogue to address misinformation without dismissing Kenyans’ real vaccine-related concerns and hesitancy.

The first doses of the vaccines are targeting at least 1.25 million Kenyans to be vaccinated between February and June in the first of three phases.

Dr. Willis Akhwale, the chairman of the COVID-19 taskforce for vaccine deployment and the vaccination process, says Kenya has made all the necessary preparations for the vaccine.

Besides the main storage in Kitengela, there are 9 other regional vaccine storage sites in Kakamega, Nyeri, Garissa, Meru, Mombasa, Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu and Eldoret to serve the entire country.

“Immediately the vaccines arrive, we’re ready and steady to start the vaccination. A lot of the killer diseases – measles, whooping cough/pertussis – without vaccination there would have been many deaths, so vaccines have had a very big impact in protecting lives,” said Dr. Akhwale.

Citizen TV spoke to Kenyans to hear their perspective; Agnes Maggie, a resident of Masii, said, “Hii dawa sifikirii kama ni nzuri. Naona ni kama ni dawa ya kupunguza watu na hatujaona mtu ameipata na ameendelea na maisha yake vizuri.”

Grace Peter, a Machakos resident, stated “Mimi sindano labda naona inaweza kukuwa ni mbaya, labda nione mtu mwengine amedungwa ndio pia mimi nikubali kudungwa.”

Rachel Kimeu, a pastor, chimed in “Naona hii ugonjwa itabidi tufuate tu government directives na tuendelee kuomba na Mungu atatuondolea hii ugonjwa.”

In a survey conducted by the Africa CDC last year, some of the respondents have said they would not take a vaccine as some believe that the disease is man-made, does not exist, or is exaggerated and does not pose a serious threat.

Others think they are not at risk of being infected with the virus while others believe that natural remedies and alternative medicines are safer than vaccines.

Individuals who have had a positive COVID-19 test and are now well believe that they do not need a vaccine because they think they have become immune to the disease and can no longer be infected.

“We know there are a lot of untruths that are peddled out there, and people may be hesitant based on untruths. The taskforce will listen to everybody, where there are untruths and myths we will address them,” added Dr. Akhwale.

The taskforce for the vaccine deployment acknowledges the need to bridge the gap in public knowledge and perceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Even before the vaccines are deployed, cultural beliefs and attitudes must also be factored in. Part of the strategy is to target faith-based and community leaders who will be instrumental in spreading the right information about the vaccines.

The Ministry of Health has maintained repeatedly that the vaccines will be optional, no one will be forced to take it, it will also be free, and that most importantly, it will be safe.

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