Conversation and control measures surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic must continue as the government pays attention to studies being done on its impact on communities.
AMREF Health Africa Global CEO Dr Githinji Gitahi said there has been a surge in increase of deaths because of Covid-19 globally and although it’s coming down in Kenya with a positivity rate of around eight per cent now, another spike in cases should be expected.
“Especially during this festive time, if measures are not in place, we expect the positivity rate to shoot in January and the impact of this calls for the improvement of our health systems”, he said.
Dr Gitahi who was speaking in Nairobi Thursday during the release of AMREF research findings on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on key health issues further said addressing Covid is not how many people are getting infected every day but how many require health systems such as workers, beds and even oxygen and this is what should be paid attention to.
In the long term, he noted that there is a need for the country to rebuild its health systems by thinking about the future of the pandemic even as research goes on especially in the vaccine conversation.
“The conversation on vaccine for the virus is extremely important and with no clear treatment and no clear outcome of drugs for viruses as they live inside us, it is critical now that the vaccines have been developed looking at the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA),” he said
Dr Gitahi explained that ordinarily it takes around 10 years to develop a vaccine but with the Covid-19 impact the vaccine is the fastest ever in terms of development based on the study on coronavirus.
Governments, he said, have put in more resources in accelerating the approvals and there are candidates in the U.K who have already started vaccination and accelerating availability of the vaccine.
However, the Global CEO boss said there is need to worry about the safety of the vaccine as they have to be effective. “Efficacy of a vaccine does not translate to the effectiveness of a vaccine,” he added noting that this is the time to pressurize governments to ensure that even before the vaccination is available, there is preparedness to ensure the vaccine is being given to the right people, right doses, right form and also in the right places so that it’s effective.
Dr Gitahi specifically said Kenya plans to roll out its first phase which will consider priority groups such as health care workers, teachers, Armed forces groups, the elderly who are at high risk and also those with the underlying disease who make up around 20 per cent or 11 million of the population.
Kenya, he added has been involved in the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine by Oxford University.
“It is difficult to give a vaccine to an entire population especially one that requires two doses each within 28 days,” he said adding although Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) who Kenya receives vaccines from will through COVAX be able to give certain doses of Covid-19.
“Kenya contributes 20 per cent on cost of vaccine to GAVI and under COVID. Kenya will receive a certain dose, probably around three per cent of the population which is about three million doses, “he said meaning that the country will still have to look for resources to vaccinate the rest of the population which is expensive.
An average cost of a vaccine, Dr Gitahi said ranges between 5 and 10 dollars per dose and one needs two doses, which would cost around Ksh 2,000 per person for vaccine but this does not include cost of vaccination including syringes, training of people, providing infrastructures such as cold chain and other factors which will translate to additional cost of the vaccine.
He explained therefore that if Kenya was to vaccinate around 60 per cent of citizens, it would spend about Ksh 30 billion. “The government will need to budget and also look at donors as this is a lot of money. Therefore the vaccination will not be happening in the first few months and despite Kenya having submitted its request to GAVI, it will still have to look for money for the rest of the remaining Kenyans,” the AMREF boss said.
The findings released Thursday namely on HIV programming, Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C), Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM), socio-economic wellbeing of youth and pandemic response governance in Kenya, outlines the impact of Covid-19 on Kenya’s population since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.
It also provides valuable insight that can be leveraged on to shape policy and inform a multi-level and multi-stakeholder response to cushion Kenyans against the negative effects of Covid-19.
Article first published on kbc.co.ke