Stakeholders now want Covid vaccines included in immunisation
Kenyan government has been urged to intergrate the Covid-19 vaccine into the routine immunisation to improve its uptake.
Dr Patrick Oyaro, Chief of Party- USAID Stawisha Pwani says that incorporation of this vaccine into routine immunisation will increase uptake thus reduce missed opportunities.
“Now that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Covid-19 to be no longer a global health emergency, funds for supporting Covid-19 activities will dwindle, yet the disease is still a health issue. This is why we need to integrate its vaccination into routine immunisation,” he says.
According to him, integrating this vaccination into national immunization services or primary health care, will improve the programme’s efficiency and sustainability, enhance demand and improve user satisfaction, achieve and maintain satisfactory coverage, and also addressing inequities.
Apart from that, integration will also help because all the services will be given from a central place unlike now where Covid vaccines majorly relys on outreaches to offer these service. Reliance on mass vaccination campaigns as a main delivery approach to reach targeted populations quickly and widely has resulted to health workers and resources being diverted from providing essential health services, including immunisation to Covid-19 vaccination efforts.
“Currently despite the announcement, Kenyans are still taking up the Covid-19 vaccination and we are still implementing a door-to-door vaccination. However, we anticipate that the announcement will have a ripple effect,” he says.
According to him, Kenya still needs to vaccinates its citizens against the virus because we are yet to acquire herd immunity (hitting the targets required) and also because the virus is an evolving disease. “Covis-19 funding is likely to end by September this year and that means that the current delivery systems of mass campaigns and outreaches will not be sustainable. Service delivery and performance will improve with integration and inequities reduced; including by reaching missed communities and other high-risk and vulnerable groups in urban, rural and conflict areas,” he adds.
According to a WHO report on considerations for integrating of the vaccine into immunisation programmes and primary health care for 2022 and beyond, there has been a growing interest to integrate it to both Public Health Care (PHC) and within existing immunisation programme services specifically. Some countries have already taken steps to integrate Covid-19 vaccination into immunisation programmes, PHC, and other relevant health services.
However, integration should not solely be limited to co-delivery at the service level. Integration also refers to merging with other health governance functions, such as planning, programme design, budgeting, and joint coordination under one ministry of the health department; health workforce responsibilities and competencies; integrated outreach, meaningful engagement and building trust with communities. “Many countries are already integrating Covid-19 vaccination into their regular health services and exploring new entry points for vaccination of high-risk groups,” reads part of that report.