Alarm over low uptake of Covid jabs by elderly

Monday, September 20th, 2021 00:00 |
Health workers from Nairobi Metropolitan Services Starehe sub-county administer Covid-19 jabs at a bus station in Nairobi on Friday, September 17. Photo/PD/CHARLES MATHAI

The government yesterday raised alarm over the low uptake of Covid-19 vaccine among people aged 58 and above.

Data from the ministry shows that only 260,000 out of 2.6 million people in that age bracket have taken the second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine.

Even though the number represents almost a quarter of the nearly 900,000 Kenyans who have so far taken the second dose, it is still way below the ministry’s target.

Out of a cumulative 4,989 deaths registered since March last year, some 3,808 persons in this age bracket have succumbed to the disease. 

Yesterday, Director-General for Health Dr Patrick Amoth and National Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment Taskforce chairman Dr Willis Akhwale expressed concern at the low uptake of the vaccine within this age group.

Most vulnerable

 “Even if most of them are not getting infected due to staying away from crowded areas, when they test positive, chances of survival are slim,” Amoth told People Daily yesterday.  

He challenged this age group to take the vaccination seriously, as they are most vulnerable since most of them have underlying health conditions.

 “Now we have enough vaccines in the country, and since this age group is among the prioritised groups, let them come forward and get immunised,” Amoth said.

He at the same time pointed out that all the five types of vaccines in the country have a World Health Organisation (WHO) clean bill of health to be deployed in Kenya.

As of yesterday, the country had received 6,283,620 combined vaccine doses of AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Sinopharm being direct donations through the commercial Covax platform. 

“Majority of the 3.3 million Kenyans who have been vaccinated, 2.5 million have received the first dose, whereas about 900,000 have completed their two jabs. We have an estimated 3.2 per cent of persons who have been fully vaccinated,” he noted.

On Friday, 795,600 doses of Pfizer landed in the country, and on Saturday morning, the Kenyan authorities, accompanied by Chinese ambassador to Kenya, received some 200,000 Sinopharm doses donations from China.

“This is the fifth type of vaccine that will be deployed in the country alongside AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer,” Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said through Principal Secretary, Dr Susan Mochache who received the vaccines.

He pointed out that Sinopharm is a two-dose vaccine with a 28-day gap between the first and second dose. It is also stored at between 2 to 8 degrees.

Amoth yesterday affirmed that the government is now well prepared to deploy the vaccines to almost every part of the country.  “Besides Garissa, Mandera and Wajir, healthcare workers in most counties have been trained sufficiently on the handling and deployment of the vaccines,” said  Akhwale.

He was speaking after a meeting in Nyeri bringing together Ministry of Health, Council of Governors, officials from both the National Multi-Agency Command Centre and Kenya Technical Advisory Committee on Immunisation. Meeting, according to Akhwale, was deliberating strategies on how to accelerate the vaccination campaign in time for the December target to vaccinate 10 million adults.

“We are just from a meeting in Nyeri where we were putting in place strategies to accelerate vaccination,” he added.

In the weekend, the programme was scaled up in residential areas in which operators of public transport were vaccinated. Weighing on the issue of the elderly being majority of those snubbing the vaccine Akhwale said the way forward is to dispel the myths around vaccines. 

“Some of them, especially those with underlying conditions, have believed that if they receive the vaccine they are going to die,” he said.

Revised plan

In the revised vaccine deployment plan, the government intends to vaccinate this group through in-reach strategies and reaching them during their special clinic days.

“They must turn up. Counties must do the outreaches for them, because they are the ones who are dying most,” he stated.

As of September 17, a total of 3.3 million vaccines had been administered across the country. Of these, total first doses are 2,480,543 while second ones are 857, 370.

 “Uptake of the second doses is at 34.6 per cent with majority being males at 55 per cent while females are at 45 per cent. The proportion of adults fully vaccinated is 3.1 per cent,” Health CS said yesterday.

Uptake of the second dose by priority groups of people aged 58 years and above is 248, 048, others 270, 655, health workers 139, 131, teachers 127, 035 while security officers are at 72, 501.

 As of September 18, some 248, 185 of people aged 58 years and above had received their second dose.

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