Kenyans throng Mbagathi in mad rush for Covid jab

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021 00:00 | By
Some Kenyans queue outside Mbagathi County Hospital to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Kenya plans to vaccinate half of its population by the end of this year. Photo/PD/Kenna Claude

Long queues were witnessed at Mbagathi District Hospital in Nairobi yesterday as hundreds of desperate Kenyans made a mad rush for the Covid-19 vaccine.

As early as 6am, scores of people had thronged the hospital, one of the few health institutions offering the vaccine in Nairobi, forcing the hospital authorities to lock the gates in a bid to manage the crowds.

Apparently, word had spread that the facility was offering the Covid-19 jab to all and sundry, including non-frontline workers, prompting hundreds of desperate Kenyans to troop there for the vaccine.

The situation got out of control after a section of the people who had been locked out of the hospital’s compound for lack of documents to prove they were frontline workers, turned unruly and forced their way onto the queues.

Three categories

According to the Ministry of Health guidelines, those classified as frontline workers and are on the government priority list for the jab include healthcare workers, teachers and the police.

When matters threatened to get out of hand, the hospital’s medical superintendent, Loise Mutai, stopped the registration and vaccination process at around 1 pm in order to restore order.

“We want the three categories who are prioritised in this phase of vaccination to stay in, the others get out of the gate,” Mutai ordered as she engaged the irate crowd which comprised dozens of elderly citizens and members of the Asian community.

“I do not know who told you to come here because tier one is the group we are focusing on for now.

It is only the health workers, teachers and police officers who are allowed to take the jab,” she said even as vaccine seekers argued that this information was in the public domain.

“The second tier programme of vaccination that involves people with co-morbidities, senior citizens and other deserving cases will start from mid April onwards,” she told the agitated group of vaccine seekers.

But the desperate group maintained that they had not been notified that they would not be given the jab.

They accused the hospital of discrimination, saying those with money were bribing the medical staff at the facility to get the jab.

“We have seen money exchanging hands here, only the poor people are being turned away,” said one agitated woman.

Journalists were also asked to leave, unless they sought clearance from the Nairobi Metropolitan Services.

Speaking at the Prisons headquarters, the Covid-19 vaccination deployment chairman, Dr Willis Akhwale, admitted that some institutions were giving the vaccine to people who were not on the government priority list.

“We have noted with concern some centres are ignoring the priority list issued by the Ministry of Health.

We want to warn them that action will be taken against such centres,” he stated.

He noted that the uptake of the vaccine has been steady, with 3,000 frontline workers getting the jab on a daily basis during the first week of the vaccination.

The number, he said, shot up last week with up to 5,000 frontline workers receiving the jab daily.

On Monday, 8,000 frontline workers had been vaccinated, he added, assuring that as more facilities start vaccinating, they will increase the uptake to meet their 1.1 million target.

“Very soon we are going to give guidance on how we want to ensure those who are at most risk of death are protected in view of the current third wave that is really coming in in a very big way” said Dr Akhwale.

In Naivasha, Members of the parliamentary committee on Communication and Information challenged President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe to publicly get the jab, claiming that their failure to be vaccinated is the reason for the low uptake.

“We are, however, ready to salvage the situation by taking the vaccine publicly,” they said.

Committee chairman William Kisang’ noted that there was a challenge over the manner in which the government was dispensing information regarding the vaccination programme.

“The government leadership has failed in leading Kenyans to get the jab of the vaccine but as Parliament we are ready to lead from the front so that we can fight this pandemic,” he said as the Covid-19 task force for vaccine deployment took stock of the programme, which entered the third week on Monday.

Separately, Commissioner General of Prisons Wycliffe Ogallo received the Covid-19 jab at the prisons headquarters during the launch of the vaccination of Kenya Prisons Service personnel.

Profound need

He said that as a Service, they recognised the profound need for prompt action, observing the exponential nature of the pandemic’s transmission that had been recorded globally.

Ogallo said they had implemented a comprehensive plan designed not just to limit individual exposure to the virus and its spread within vital correctional facilities across the country but also fortify the 54,000 intimates, 28,000 staff and their families against the virus.

“We are grateful to have received from the Ministry of Health Covid-19 vaccines for Kenya Prisons Service personnel countrywide.

To fast-track the process, I am pleased to note that the same will be supervised and administered by our healthcare personnel in the respective prisons countrywide,” he added.

He also called on the entire prison service personnel to embrace the vaccine.

More on News