As Kenya’s Ministry of Health distributes millions of COVID-19 vaccine around the country, a fervent anti-vaccination movement is organizing against it.
Just a day after Kenya received its first batch of a million AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccines on 2nd March, the Catholic Doctors Association warned the public against taking the vaccine terming it “unnecessary”.
Given the influence that faith based groups can have, countering anti-vaccine narratives is shaping up as the next battle in winning the war against the Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya and the world.
Anti-vaccine narratives are numerous: from sowing seeds of worry about children’s health to advocating alternative medications and linking immunizations to conspiracy theories, pro-vaccine groups will have their work cut out. They must go beyond the simple message — vaccines work and save lives.
In a note addressed to the Catholic doctors’ lobby, WHO seeks to assure the public that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and others developed recently to help fight the pandemic are safe.
“The regulatory and scientific reviews of the vaccines have not been compromised.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India and now being distributed in Kenya, has been reviewed and found safe not only by the WHO rigorous process but also by several stringent regulatory authorities including the Unites States FDA and the European regulatory authority,” said WHO.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has developed a deployment plan for the vaccines, with frontline healthcare workers and other essential workers such as security personnel, being offered the first priority.
The vaccines are being transported from central vaccine store in Athi River to nine regional vaccine stores across Kenya from where the counties will collect and distribute them to local hospitals at county and sub-county level.
On Friday, 5th March, the MoH Acting Director-General Dr Patrick Amoth was among the first Kenyans to receive the inoculation as a show of validation on the vaccine’s safety.
Other senior health officers who received the vaccine were Kenyatta National Hospital CEO, Dr Evans Kamuri, and the Head of Immunization program, Dr Collins Tabu.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine was made available to Kenya COVAX facility thanks to an early purchase arrangement between Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and SII.
Whereas the vaccine is being offered on voluntary basis, WHO, Unicef and partners are supporting the government’s communication campaign to sensitize the public so as to increasing trust in the COVID-19 vaccine.
The support is being provided to counter myths and misconceptions about COVID vaccines and to encourage people to get the life-saving jab as it becomes available to them.
While reassuring Kenyans on the safety of the vaccine WHO added that millions of Covid-19 vaccines have already been administered across the world and there are no additional safety signals that have been received meaning that the jab is safe.