NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya is a part of the Global Alliance Vaccines and Immunization, or GAVI Vaccine Alliance. GAVI was established in 2000 to help increase the accessibility of vaccines to communities of extreme poverty in developing countries. GAVI focuses on providing vaccines to children to protect the health of the communities by decreasing the potential spread of diseases. Projections showed that The GAVI project would do well in Kenya at the beginning of 2020. Kenya was on schedule to transition from depending on GAVI to being fully independent and paying for all the country’s vaccines by 2027. COVID-19 has impacted Kenya’s immunization program, causing a decline in its progress. However, with increased assistance from the Vaccine Alliance and the Kenyan government making the necessary changes to the country’s health system, there is still a chance for Kenya to have both a strong response to the pandemic and improve immunizations.
Over recent years, Kenya’s immunization efforts have been very successful. When it comes to “Closing the Immunization Gap” Kenya has been the leading country in North-Eastern Africa. In Kenya, about every two out of three children have complete immunization compared to the two out of the five in the entire North-Eastern region.
COVID-19 in Kenya
As of February 2020, Kenya has reported more than 103,000 COVID-19 cases. There is generally limited access to quality healthcare in Kenya since 52% of the population live in poverty and almost 80% live in rural areas. Therefore, many people would have to travel long distances for proper care. The pandemic places another barrier for people to get access to care if needed.
In addition to the struggle for the average Kenyan to get proper healthcare, COVID-19 has become the overall focus of healthcare professionals. New restrictions place the importance of other vaccinations for children much lower because many people are staying home to protect themselves from catching the virus. As a result, COVID-19 has impacted Kenya’s Immunization program due to its national urgency. It caused a lack of consistency in healthcare and immunization.
Reversing COVID-19 Impacts on Immunization
Although COVID-19 has impacted Kenya’s Immunization program, there is a high probability that the program and the aid surrounding vaccinations will be able to reverse such setbacks. According to the Center For Strategic & International Studies, predictions from past trends show that the National Vaccine and Immunization program is fully capable of handling both general routine vaccinations and the potential COVID-19 vaccine.
The past success includes the use of pneumococcal, yellow fever, meningitis and HPV vaccines. Another past success in Kenya’s immunization includes the partnership with the CDC and WHO, which lead to the increase in immunizations and the process of reporting disease spread in 200 health facilities throughout Kenya. Additionally, Kenya was one of the pilot countries to use the world’s first malaria vaccine. This new breakthrough in vaccinations, despite the persistence of the pandemic, provides hope for future improvements in Kenya’s immunization program.
Both the past trends and current breakthroughs regarding Kenya’s immunization program increase the chances of the program’s ability to reverse the COVID-19 impact on Kenya’s immunization efforts.
– Zahlea Martin