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Poor distribution of Covid -19 vaccines

KNA   The existing inequality and poor distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in Africa has elicited numerous reactions among the health sector in Kenya and regionally.

Kenya is one of the 54 locations undertaking vaccine trials in the continent, with 250 participants involved in the exercise across the Country.

Scientists, Journalists and County Government officials attending a science café at a Kisumu Hotel, today, termed as unfair trade practices, where vendors from outside Kenya monopolized importation of vaccines, since Kenya don’t manufacture them locally.

However, Fred Oluoch, the Kisumu County Director of Health, said having closed Churches thereby prompting faithful to raise a storm and strictly enforced Ministry of Health Protocols, Covid-19 positivity rate reduced tremendously to 5 % down from 8.7%.

Oluoch revealed that the County Government has hired 250 Health staff, following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, to boost the County response activities, since they registered 2,000 Covid-19 transmissions, which greatly strained the capacity of its health facilities.

The pandemic brought with it logistical nightmare, which required that County Governments collaborate with strategic Health partners  such as the  Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), European Union (EU) and World Health Organization (WHO), to effectively fight the pandemic.

“With a total of 401 general ward beds and 17 Intensive Care Units (ICUs), we took the bull by the horn, as the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching & Referral Hospital (JOOTRH), remained our preferred center for the Covid-19 case management,” he stated.

Oluoch confided that at the time 722 Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) were trained under the program, with the support from EU but taking the bull by the horns unfortunately culminated in over 200 Health workers getting infected with Covid-19.

The County Director said persistent myths and misconceptions around the pandemic has been a challenge that continue to frustrate the gains made so far.

“We feel the urgent need to have four police officers attached to every ambulance for quick response by way of transporting Covid-19 cases from deep down the slums and villages in the communities where insecurity posed great danger during the curfew,” he said.     

He confided that curfew passes have been introduced to enable frontline workers respond to such emergencies, while Public Address Equipment were used by the MoH and that of Department of Information, to sensitize the communities to avoid a relapse in observing the set health protocols.

He said of concern remains that some families transported their dead for preservation in mortuaries outside the County, just to evade the requirement that such bodies be buried within 48 hours. With this also came the ban on public barazas and community dialogue forums.

Oluoch said the County Government has engaged the services of three epidemiologists in each of the seven Sub-counties to facilitate quick transportation of the samples collected from the patients in the field for testing either at JOOTRH or Kisumu County Hospital.

In terms of future projection, he said, 80% of any funding to the Health programs, will go towards promoting access to all Covid-19 cases who need hospitalization, 10% will provide Health workers protection and a further 10% to minimize the impact of the pandemic.

The Director revealed that Kisumu County, is currently building operation theatres in each Sub-county as the first step towards ensuring that medical specialists go back to the rural areas, to serve members of the public.

He said that two weeks ago, the County disposed of 61 uncollected bodies with a further 16 set for the same fate in the next one week, if the relatives fail to collect them for burial.

Oluoch disclosed that Sh.51 million has also been used to build an oxygen production facility in Kisumu, pointing out that this will greatly boost the supply of the vital gas.

He revealed that already 14, 504 people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in Kisumu but the fight continues as various partners in the healthcare sector, continue pooling resources and personnel in anticipation for the 4th wave, just in case it breaks out.

Francis Angira, who is a researcher with KEMRI in Kisumu, said the Viruses of Concern (VOCs) and Viruses of Interests (VOIs), emanate from the fact that Covid-19 mutates over time and most changes have little to no impact on the virus properties.  

Angira said WHO, working together with research institutions monitoring the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 since January 2020, detected the variants that posed an increased risk to global public health, prompting the characterization of specific VOIs and VOCs, in order to prioritize global monitoring and research and ultimately inform current response to Covid-19 pandemic.

He pointed out that vaccine hesitancy attributed to misconceptions and myths surrounding the Covid-19 vaccination, are similar to those that was witnessed against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Angira noted that this has since seen many people question why the Covid-19 vaccine has taken a very short time to manufacture, yet others took ages.

“The Delta variant is considered as spreading very fast. This has been blamed on the poor and lackluster response by the health teams in the affected countries, which led to it emerging the most lethal owing to the extensive damage and numerous deaths it left in its trail,” he said.

The KEMRI researcher took issue with the social media, where a lot of misinformation and myths thrive.

“But, as I see it, when life hands you a lemon make lemonade,” he added.

The medic challenged journalists to capitalize by communicating correct information through their numerous platforms.

“Let us make our people be attracted to our messaging just like the social media guys who may not be endowed with formal journalistic training. This can be done through radio, TV and print columns, for the varied clients”, he observed.

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