Schools start Covid jab drive for 15-year-olds
Scores of secondary schools across the country have started vaccinating their students above the age of 15 in a move that is likely to boost the numbers of Kenyans who have taken the Covid-19 jab.
A survey by People Daily established that several schools in various parts of the country had administered the jab to students in the last two weeks.
The latest campaign is an initiative between the schools, the Ministry of Health and the respective county governments.
“We vaccinated our students last week, at least those aged 15 and above, it was a joint campaign between the school, the Health ministry and the County government,” said a senior teacher at a secondary school in Mumias West sub-county.
He confirmed that at least 10 schools in the sub county had invited Ministry of Health officials to their respective institutions to administer the vaccine, but only with the concurrence of the affected students.
People Daily is in possession of WhatsApp messages from a national school in the Western region asking parents to give consent so that their children could get the life saving jabs.
“Above is the list of students we intend to vaccinate, please parent confirm whether your boy should take the vaccine,” wrote a WhatsApp administrator in the school to parents, some of who declined the offer, saying some their children had underlying conditions.
Parents at two extra county girls’ schools in Kakamega and Bungoma counties also confirmed getting messages asking them whether their daughters could be vaccinated or not.
“Yes, my daughter has taken the first injection, that was last week,” one parent at the Kakamega County based school told People Daily.
“We were approached by the school with the vaccine offer but I declined, I told them my daughter will receive the jab once schools close,” said another parent of a student at the extra county school in Bungoma county.
A top Ministry of Education official based at Jogoo House, Nairobi, however, distanced the ministry from the current arrangement.
“While the Ministry of Health encourages vaccination for students who are 15 years old and above, the ministry has not issued any directive to allow schools undertake the exercise, at least not within the school,” said a ministry official who sought not to be named.
“We are not stopping parents from vaccinating their children as long as they are 15 years and above, for instance, those in day schools can vaccinate their children after classes or during weekends, but we have not issued any directive about vaccinations in schools,” said the official, who sought anonymity because he is not the ministry’s spokesperson.
According to teachers and parents contacted, the latter are required to give consent for their children to be vaccinated and some have given the nod while others declined on the grounds that some of the learners have underlying medical conditions. A parent in Kiambu County said the school administration has reached them through WhatsApp groups asking them to give their consent for their children to be vaccinated.
“A few of us expressed no objection but a large number of parents remained silent on the matter,” she said on phone and added that the exercise is slated to take place on February 17.
“In my school the vaccination was done last Thursday,” said a teacher at a school in Kajiado County, sharing WhatsApp screenshots of the girls taking the jab.
Many of the parents who have given consent for the Covid-19 jabs insist that their children should get the Johnsons dose or other single dose vaccines. But a senior teacher at a national school in Nairobi said the institution was yet to undertake such exercises saying teachers were busy with preparations for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination which kicks off early next month.
“We have not considered such exercise, we are too busy with exams preparations,” said the teacher. The government rolled out vaccination for persons below 18 years old in November last year after the World Health Organization (WHO) approved the Pfizer vaccine for use on children aged 12 and above.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe noted Pfizer is the only vaccine approved by WHO for the younger population.
“In view of emergency use authorization by Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) and following the World Health Organisation recommendation, I direct that we open vaccination of young people with Pfizer from Tuesday, November 23 lowering the applicable age to 15 years and above. The estimated population of this group is approximately 5.7 million,” Kagwe said.
The government is on record cautioning Kenyans that as they get older, the more it gets concerned about their health, and the need for more emphasis on them getting vaccinated.
“The 15-year-olds are allowed to be vaccinated because they can be carriers too. So as we kick off the accelerated exercise I appeal to all Kenyans and especially the elderly to turn out in large numbers and be vaccinated,” Kagwe urged.
He said the main reason why every Kenyans needs to be vaccinated is to ensure the economy keeps going. World Health Organisation (WHO) and Ministry of Health figures indicate that 15 million Kenyans were vaccinated by February 12, which is 12.8 per cent of the total adult population. Out of this, 7.9 million people or 14 percent have received one dose while 6.8 million or 12 percent were fully vaccinated. An additional 220,381 Kenyans have so been given booster shots but no figures are available yet for those aged 15 years.