Brace for a fifth Covid-19 wave, official now warns

Thursday, October 7th, 2021 00:00 | By
National Covid-19 Vaccine Taskforce chairman Willis Akhwale receives a consignment of 252,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the JKIA in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA

George Kebaso and Hilary mageka  

The government has sounded an alarm of a possible Covid-19 fifth wave, particularly in areas where people are not taking vaccines. 

Counties in Western Kenya and Nyanza, which were hit hardest at the end of the third wave and subsequent fourth spike of the virus, have been singled out as the areas likely to be affected.

National Covid-19 vaccine deployment task force Chairman Willis Akhwale said scientists in some parts of the world have started bracing themselves, citing end of November as the earliest possible period the fifth wave could strike.

“It could be a continued mutation of the Delta variant, but certainly some parts of the world have started preparing for a possible outbreak,” he said emphasising on the need for counties that are densely populated such as Kakamega and Homa Bay, where only a small portion of the population has been immunised to hurry up and get vaccinated.

Dr Akhwale spoke at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) yesterday after receiving a consignment of 252,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the US that had been procured directly by the government.

He said whereas there were counties that had performed well in the vaccination campaign, some, particularly in Western and Nyanza regions, were dragging.

“Counties such as Kakamega with an eligible population of a million have only fully vaccinated slightly more than 20,000 people.

It is the same case with Homa Bay, which has so far vaccinated about 10,000 people from an eligible population of 600,000,” he said.

Akhwale’s warning came as the Ministry of Health released statistics indicating 2,944,584 Kenyans have received their first dose while 929,499 others have been fully vaccinated as of October 2, 2021.

They include frontline workers, teachers, security officers and those above 58 years of age.

In terms of priority groups 74,529 uniformed officers are fully vaccinated, 141,069 of the targeted health workers are also fully vaccinated while among teachers 128,633 of the targeted 330,671 are fully vaccinated.

From an estimated population of 2.6 million persons above 58 years of age, only 253,920 are now fully vaccinated.

“This low coverage of just about 10 per cent among this group that has the highest risk of severe disease and deaths is concerning to us,” Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Health on Wednesday.

“We are, therefore, working with counties and religious leaders to ensure access to this priority group.

Among the measures we have asked the counties to use to reach them is through community health workers who will pre-register them and work with counties for targeted outreaches,” the minister said.

Kagwe, who chairs the National Emergency Response Committee (NERC) said as the global supply chain improves, the country will be accelerating the vaccination programme and the MoH has revised its deployment plan to facilitate administration of multiple Covid-19 vaccines.

However, the minister noted that the global vaccine supply chain remains a major challenge.

Yesterday’s J&J consignment was the second batch that had been procured directly by the government.

Akhwale said the government had made a provision of Sh14.3 billion to procure 13 million doses of J&J vaccines in the current financial year and that this was part of that provision.

At the same time, yesterday’s arrival pushes the total J&J vaccine doses to 393,600, being part of the expected 13 million doses.

“The government had projected to be receiving one million doses of Johnson and Johnson between August and December and about two million from January,” he pointed out.

However, Akhwale noted that whereas there are existing challenges in the global supply chain, there is hope more doses of this particular vaccine will be coming in the next few weeks.

“We are happy with the increased doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines as they will be used in our primary healthcare facilities, as well as our mobile outreach units,” he added.

Akhwale noted that the vaccines will increase the number of those fully vaccinated faster because they were a single shot dose.

Akhwale said Kagwe had made it clear that for the country to fully re-open, Kenyans must be vaccinated.

“All we are asking Kenyans is to turn out to get the jab since there are enough vaccines in the country now,” Dr Akhwale said. Since March this year, the country has received 6.5 million doses of the five types of vaccines approved for use in Kenya.

There are 3.5 million AstraZeneca; 1.8 million moderna, 795,600 Pfizer, 393,600 J&J and 200,000 Sinopharm doses.  

Akhwale said the Ministry of Health through Kagwe had yesterday prevailed upon the Senate to mobilise political leaders in those counties where vaccine uptake is low, to assist in the campaign.

Kagwe said out of the initial projected 4.1 million delivery of doses at the start of the program from the Covax facility, Kenya has so far received only 1.02 million doses of AstraZeneca during the first phase which covered March to June 2021.

An additional 458,700 doses of the vaccines were donated by the Governments of India and Denmark bringing the total to 1,458,700 vaccine doses as at the last week of June 2021.

The target for the first phase was to administer 2.5 million doses to fully vaccinate 1.25 million frontline workers.

As of June 30, 2021, Kenya had administered 1,378,585 vaccinations out of which 1,008,120 were first doses and 370,585 were second doses.

He said the country’s diagnostic capacity has been scaled up as there are 88 public and private laboratories in 13 counties currently conducting confirmatory tests for Covid-19.

They are in Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Kilifi, Wajir, Kericho, Uasin Gishu, Machakos, Busia, Nakuru, Kajiado, Trans Nzoia and Mandera.

“This infrastructure will contribute towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and medical tourism beyond the Covid-19 pandemic,” the CS said, adding that the ministry has and continues to distribute complete personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits to counties.

Kagwe revealed that the Government has fully engaged Nyumba Kumi initiative committees and is also utilising community health volunteers to enhance Covid-19 detection and reporting at household level.

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