Elderly people take lead in COVID-19 vaccination

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021 10:12 |
A teacher receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a health center in Kampala, capital of Uganda, March 31, 2021. Uganda launched the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination campaign on March 10, targeting high risk groups in the east African country. The ministry of health targets to vaccinate more than 21.9 million people who face the highest risk of the infection, which include health workers, teachers, security personnel, elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. (Photo by Nicholas Kajoba/Xinhua)

When the Kenyan government announced in March that the elderly would be given priority in COVID-19 vaccination, Andrew Wandera, a resident of Busia, Kenya, heeded the call.

The 62-year-old retired teacher visited the main referral hospital in the county a few days after the announcement and got the jab. Wandera recounted on Friday that he influenced other older persons in his church and neighborhood to get the vaccine.

"There were lots of misconceptions in the village about the vaccine, with some saying one becomes very sick after getting it but I used myself as an example to encourage fellow elders to get the vaccine," Wandera said on phone, adding his wife, 59, also got vaccinated.

Such efforts from people like Wandera and increased awareness among the elderly in the country have seen the group lead in the number of those vaccinated in Kenya.

At least 531,540 persons who are aged 58 and above have been vaccinated so far in Kenya, according to Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe.

The number represents more than half of those who have been vaccinated in the country, with 911,515 people having taken the vaccine as of Friday. Other targeted persons are teachers, health workers and security officers.

Some 160,468 health workers have been vaccinated in the country, followed by 142,624 teachers and 76,578 security personnel. Willis Akhwale, chairman of COVID-19 Vaccine Development Taskforce, said recently that the elderly are targeted because they are at severe risk and account for 60 percent of recorded deaths in the east African nation.

Since the outbreak of the disease in March 2020, 2,865 people have died in the country due to COVID-19 as of Friday.Kenya launched the vaccination program on March 8, with the first phase targeting 1.25 million people at high risk of infection.

While many of Kenya's elderly went to be vaccinated because they are among high-risk groups, young people have also taken the jabs because of the nature of their jobs.

"Our employer organized for us to take the vaccine because we handle cash and interact with tens of people daily," said Caroline Nelima, a banker in Nairobi.

Other professionals who have been vaccinated besides bankers, teachers, health workers and security officers, are journalists and long-distance drivers. Kenya's vaccination drive has, however, been hit by a shortage of the doses as India, the main supplier of the AstraZeneca vaccine, has suspended exports as its COVID-19 cases surge.

The east African nation is now working with Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) for assistance in procuring more vaccines, according to Kagwe.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kenya rose to 162,666, with 1.7 million tests conducted as of Friday. And 110,653 patients have recovered from the pandemic.

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