Covid cover for medics as second vaccine gets nod

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020 00:00 | By
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe at a past briefing. He has cautioned Kenyans not to drop their guard on Covid rules. Photo/PD/File

George Kebaso and BBC @Morarak

Healthcare workers in the country will starting today benefit from a comprehensive Covid-19 medical insurance cover following Cabinet’s approval.

The cover will include Comprehensive Group Life, Last Expense, Enhanced Work Injury Benefits and Group Personal Accident.

Yesterday, Health Cabinet Secretary, Mutahi Kagwe instructed the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), to conclude negotiations on the covers for doctors and other healthcare workers as approved by the Cabinet.

The announcement  followed a meeting between officials of the Ministry of Health led by Kagwe and unions representing healthcare workers, during which they also resolved to drop their threat to ground delivery of services across the country.

 Kagwe spoke at the backdrop of increased number of fatalities among healthcare workers, which has seen eight doctors succumb to the virus in the last two weeks alone.

The CS spoke as the country recorded the first case of a learner succumbing to the disease.

The Form Four student at Lureko Girls secondary school in Mumias West sub county, Kakamega County died while undergoing treatment at the Life Care Centre in Bungoma town on Sunday.

According to the school’s headteacher Everlyne Chebukati, the student was released from school on October after complaining that she was unwell.

“We released her on October 31, when we followed up her condition with her parents, we were informed that she had been diagnosed with meningitis and treated at the St Mary’s Hospital in Mumias but was later transferred to the Life Care Centre in Bungoma where she died while undergoing treatment,” said Chebukati.

Yesterday’s announcement is a huge relief to healthcare workers especially doctors and nurses, after the government announced last week that the national insurer would no longer foot medical bills for Covid-19 patients.

“These are people who dedicated their lives to save the lives of the majority of us.

When one of them loses his or her life, we are in greater pain, because there is a bigger vacuum that is left behind,” Kagwe said at Afya House last evening, describing the month of November as the darkest in the country ever since the first Covid-19 case was reported in the country in March.

The CS said he had held discussions with the Council of Governors (CoG) on the need for all county governments, to take up the task of insuring their own healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, a US biotechnology firm Moderna announced yesterday that a preliminary analysis shows its experimental coronavirus vaccine, is nearly 95 per cent effective at preventing illness, including severe cases — a striking initial result that leaves the United States with the prospect that two coronavirus vaccines could be available on a limited basis by the end of the year.

The news comes a week after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech lifted the stock market and people’s hopes with the news that their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 percent effective.

The announcement sent stocks up again, with the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 up about one per cent in midmorning trading. Moderna’s share price rose more than six per cent.

At a briefing, government officials predicted that if the two vaccines receive a regulatory greenlight, the first shots could be given in December, with enough to vaccinate 20 million people that month — and more becoming available into 2021 as production ramps up and other vaccine candidates may be successful.

“It’s extremely good news. If you look at the data, the numbers speak for themselves,” said Anthony S. Faucci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was one of three people briefed on the data by an independent committee Sunday morning.

“I describe myself as a realist, but I’m fundamentally a cautious optimist. I felt we’d likely get something less than this. I said certainly a 90-plus-per cent effective vaccine is possible, but I wasn’t counting on it.”

Moderna’s vaccine, co-developed with Faucci’s institute, is being tested in 30,000 people. Half received two doses of the vaccine, and half received a placebo.

To test how well the vaccine works, physicians closely monitored cases of covid-19 to see whether they predominantly occurred in people who received the vaccine.

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