As vaccines become available, the health care sector in Kenya is racing against time to immunize as many people as possible. However, this can only happen if both the health care personnel and the public have the information they need.
Amref Health Africa in Kenya, with funding from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Migori County government, designed training for health care workers and leaders in the frontline. The training aims to increase their capacity to reduce vaccine hesitancy and support prioritization, equitable distribution, and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The training covers critical knowledge about the COVID -19 vaccination, including proper storage, preparation and administration and how to respond to the questions and concerns raised by the public.
“The training is targeted to all the cadres in the health care sector including medical officers, clinical officers, nurses, lab technicians, and public health officers, and we are happy that 300 workers responded and have undergone training in Migori County,” said Mr. Duncan Arunda, County public health officer, Migori County.
Mr. Arunda said that at least 3,497 health care workers were among 10,314 people who had received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the county, while 2,700 completed their second dose, with 935 being health care providers. However, he noted that the county has used up all vaccines made available to it, and is expecting additional supplies soon.
This comes at a time when Migori County and 12 other counties in western Kenya have been declared as COVID -19 hotspot zones due to a surge in cases.
“We are not ruling out some vaccine hesitancy from the health care workers. Nevertheless, efforts are underway to address vaccine hesitancy by educating and sensitizing stakeholders and citizens that the vaccine is safe and productive,” Aunda said.
In Migori County, 1,450 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed since March last year, while 50 have died due to the coronavirus.
The acceptability of inoculation among health care workers has been low, as their leaders had not been involved in planning the vaccinations. The health care workers viewed the exercise as government-driven and confidence levels were very low. The issue was later resolved after the government brought in the health care workers’ leaders, bridging the communication gap.
As a frontline worker, Anastancia Mosoti, a nurse in Migori County, is delighted to have received a COVID-19 vaccine. “I am now happy and confident after getting the jab as I will now be able to conduct my duties without fear,” she said. In the first phase of the inoculation, the government identified health care workers, teachers, police, and the military as the priority groups. However, with time those aged 58 years and above were included in the category. The spike in demand for vaccines among Kenyan citizens is a clear demonstration that the public’s confidence and willingness to take the vaccine has gone a notch higher, as the health system, including Community Health Workers (CHWs), can continue to sensitize communities.