At least 3.5 million children in Kenya are targeted to receive Measles and Rubella vaccine shot in a 10-day campaign starting Friday, June 26.
The vaccination, which is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health and UNICEF, will be carried out in 22 counties and is billed to cost approximately Kes 800 million.
The Ministry of Health will deploy 16,000 health workers in Garissa, Mandera, Wajir, Kilifi, Tana River, Kajiado, Narok, Baringo, Bomet, and Trans Nzoia counties.
Children in Turkana, West Pokot, Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Vihiga, Homa Bay, Kisii, Kisumu, Migori, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nairobi counties will also get the lifesaving jab.
“This campaign is free and is targeting children aged between nine months to five years in all health centres and selected immunization posts,” said Dr Mercy Mwangangi, the Chief Administration Secretary, Ministry of Health.
Dr Peter Okoth, a health specialist at Unicef Kenya said the teams will vaccinate children in all the health facilities providing immunization services, adding that the health workers will also establish over 5,000 temporary posts where the children will be brought for vaccination, including open-air markets, schools and churches.
“A risk assessment was done where we looked at how the counties have been performing in terms of immunization. Are the children receiving the first and second dose of the vaccine? And looking at the number of children who have not been vaccinated. We also looked at whether the counties have had the measles cases or outbreaks reported, then consolidating this to find which counties are at the highest risk of the measles outbreak,” Dr Okoth explained.
The last Measles and Rubella vaccination drive was rolled out in 2016 and at least 1.6 million children are estimated to be susceptible to outbreaks.
According to the Ministry an estimated 85 per cent received of children in Kenya got the first dose of the vaccine in 2020 at nine months while less than half the children have received both recommended doses.
“A risk assessment conducted in the country with the support of the World Health Organization identified 22 counties as being at very high risk for measles outbreaks,” Dr Patrick Amoth, Ag. Director-General, Health.
The contagious measles virus, just like the coronavirus, is spread by infected droplets in the air. It replicates in the nose and throat. The measles virus causes total body skin rash and flu-like symptoms.
The first dose of measles vaccine is usually administered at nine months and a second one from 18 months.
The Kemri-Wellcome Trust Research Programme had warned the number of susceptible children has ballooned yet one infected child can trigger a major outbreak.
“Following the start of Covid-19 and restriction measures that decreased vaccination coverage, we estimate population immunity decreased quickly, depending on the extent of reduction in vaccination coverage,” Kemri said in a modelling study.