Authors: Leticia Buluma, Bernard Kikechi, Joyce Muthoni, Edna Osebe
Underlining that the world is facing a rapid amplification and circulation of accurate but also false information, the UN Secretary-General declared that we are currently fighting an infodemic in the same way as we are fighting a pandemic (António Guterres, 2020)
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic, pointing to over 3 million cases and 207,973 deaths in 213 countries and territories. Nearly a year later, in March 2021, Kenya received its first consignment of Astra Zeneca Vaccine, after the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine was endorsed. The benefits of vaccinating the population against COVID-19, along with compliance to the recommended preventive measures, cannot be overemphasized in the fight against the pandemic whilst persistent efforts are being made to bolster herd immunity.
On the other hand, misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines undermines the global response in managing the pandemic and is a threat to not only public health but also the economy at large. The World Health Organisation in its assessment of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that nearly half of the world’s 3.3 billion global workforce is at risk of losing their livelihoods due to the pandemic (WHO, 2020). With globalization, urbanization and environmental change, infectious disease outbreaks and epidemics have become global threats requiring a collective response. In Kenya, the economy was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic on both the external and domestic fronts, which caused activity to slow sharply in 2020 (real gross domestic product is estimated to have contracted by 0.3% in 2020).
It goes without saying that a large number of healthcare professionals in Kenya are needed to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts nationwide. These healthcare professionals are essential to ensuring the Kenyan population is vaccinated safely as soon as possible. They play a critical role in proper vaccine storage, handling, preparation, and administration, and they must be prepared to respond to vaccine recipients’ questions and concerns. It is important that these healthcare professionals receive the training needed to effectively meet the demands of their roles. Training must be ongoing as new COVID-19 vaccines become available and as vaccine recommendations evolve out of more learnings about the vaccines and how to improve the vaccination process.
Based on the foregoing, the Ministry of Health with support from its partners has actively been engaged on a round-the-clock campaign to educate the public and dispel any misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines through various media channels, talk shows, interviews, question & answer sessions, press conferences/media briefings, social media channels, community engagement forums and trainings. In this context of keeping health care workers safe and informed, Amref Health Africa embarked on a number of initiatives, one being digital learning through the Institute of Capacity Development in Partnership with Kenya’s Ministry of Health
(MoH). This saw the digitisation of the MoH training content for the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. The digital COVID-19 course is accessible through the Jibu platform (https://jibu.africa/).
In so doing, Amref is providing a platform for health care workers to collaborate, learn and share their experiences. Amref aims to reach all the health care workers whether serving in the County Departments of Health or the public, faith-based organisation (FBO), and private-for-profit health facilities, which is estimated at 31 412 (Training Needs Assessment, 20162).
The vaccine course aims to equip all health care workers involved in the implementation of COVID-19 vaccination with adequate knowledge and skills in order to ensure safe and efficient COVID-19 vaccine deployment in Kenya. It has been organised into nine units as follows; Overview of Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19); Rationale, Justification and Objectives for Deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine; Target Population, Eligibility Criteria and Contraindications; Vaccine Attributes, Storage conditions and Supply Logistics; IPC Principles for COVID-19 Vaccination; COVID-19 Vaccine Administration and Safety; Communication for COVID-19 Vaccine Introduction; Data Management and Reporting Electronic Vaccine Registry – Chanjo Management Information System (CMIS) and COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring and Surveillance Discussions with regulators for allocation of CPD points are at an advanced stage with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board already approving 5 CPD points for members who would pursue it.
Amref Health Africa expects to promote access to health information and mitigate harm from health misinformation among health care workers.