Seven months since COVID-19 vaccination began in Kenya, just about 3.6 per cent of the country’s adult population have been fully inoculated, with the question of how long immunity lasts looming large.
The Ministry of Health has now warned that Kenyans may need annual vaccination against the virus saying latest research indicates the multiple vaccines currently in administration in the country have an immunity duration of just a year.
Kenya COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Taskforce Chairman, Dr Willis Akhwale told the Senate Committee on Health that studies have shown that a booster dose helps build more immunity.
“This is what is being monitored with a possibility that it may become an annual requirement if at the end of 10 months after the people have been vaccinated the levels will be low. So the simple answer is, especially after two doses in the first year, it is possible that one would be required to be vaccinated again in the coming year,” Dr Akhwale noted.
Dr Akhwale further explained that for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the protection sets in four weeks because they are given the second dose within two weeks to have the full protection.
“This protection is projected to last up to ten months. What I can say is the information we have, is we really need two doses but as more information comes on the need to have annual vaccination we will keep Kenyans updated.”
While this argument supports the need for annual doses and booster shots, Dr Akhwale says Kenya will also conduct research on the matter.
“We just don’t want to adopt global trends without local evidence and in particular we will also be looking at issues of natural immunity to see how far it remains protective and the issue of booster dose is specifically important especially where you see the waning of natural immunity and also the waning of immunity from vaccination,” he said.
In April Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said people will likely need a booster dose of the vaccine within twelve months of getting fully vaccinated.
However, the World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Gabryesus had appealed to nations administering the booster shots to halt the exercise, and instead help the developing countries get enough doses, a plea that some countries ignored.