Kenya increases uptake and equity of COVID-19 vaccinations

Like many others in Siaya County, western Kenya, Margaret Awino, a member of the Doho Ukwaka Magombe Masat Association (DUMMA) women’s group, feared receiving the COVID-19 vaccine due to negative rumors circulating. in the community.

“When the COVID-19 vaccination was introduced, I heard people say it would kill the elderly. I was scared. But I am now well informed and I have also seen that those who were vaccinated earlier did not die. I want to go get vaccinated. And today I heard the WHO say that when a person is vaccinated and contracted the disease, they will not be serious enough to cause death, ”said Margaret.

The commitment of local communities to support the response to COVID-19 and to accept the vaccine has been at the heart of the Government of Kenya‘s response to COVID-19. This is something that WHO, with the support of a Canadian grant through the Universal Health Coverage Partnership (UHC Partnership), strongly supported.

Working closely with the county health management teams, WHO provided technical support for advocacy, risk communication and social mobilization to improve immunization in all communities in Kenya. By liaising with political, administrative and community leaders, WHO set out to explain how vaccines and other prevention measures, such as masks, work and how they protect people from disease.

Achieve greater equity in COVID-19 immunization coverage

The experience of the COVID-19 response in Kisumu and Siaya counties has shown that creating demand and providing a mix of vaccine delivery mechanisms to reach key priority groups is an effective way to improve immunization and achieve greater equity in coverage. In Kisumu County, the County Health Management Team conducted community awareness campaigns on the COVID-19 vaccine in the 7 sub-counties for a week in May 2021, integrating it with the vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) targeting girls aged 10 to 12.

Using schools as vaccination sites means more teachers have been reached with the COVID-19 vaccine and more schoolgirls have been reached with the HPV vaccine. Promoting an integrated systems approach means that services are more people-centered and able to meet health needs, which promotes solid progress towards universal health coverage.

The choice of location is also decisive. For example, in Kisumu County, static health facilities accounted for only 17% of doses administered, while outreach delivery mechanisms, which used schools and community sites, accounted for 83%. This represented a 4.8-fold increase in demand and use of the COVID-19 vaccine as a result of the awareness program. Absorption increased from 896 doses to 4,338 doses during the first week of sensitization.

Kenya is one of 115 countries and territories to which the UHC Partnership helps provide WHO support and technical expertise to advance UHC with a PHC approach. The Partnership is one of WHO’s largest initiatives on international cooperation for UHC and PHC. It is funded by the European Union (EU), the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Irish Aid, the Government of Japan, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the United Kingdom – Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office , Belgium, Canada and Germany.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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