Health Principal Secretary, Susan Mochache says Kenyans should start wearing face masks as a mandatory measure in a bid to curb Covid-19.
"Wearing of masks is mandatory. Please don't take it lightly. If you are caught without a mask you will be arrested," she said at DC Grounds, Kibra where together with Amref Health Africa and AstraZeneca, she flagged off a fleet of Mobile Vaccination Clinics (MVCs) in an effort to protect last-mile communities from the pandemic.
The ten movable clinics will bring COVID-19 vaccines and other health services to hard-to-reach communities across Kenya.
“We note with concern that 3.9 per cent of the people infected with Covid-19 so far are healthcare workers. So what does this mean? It means we are headed deep into the sixth wave of the pandemic; further meaning that we could be inviting the restrictions that saw our country suffer huge economic losses,” Mochache said.
Mochache further cautioned that the country risks sliding back into the Covid-19 restrictions whose impact on the economy is still being felt if they fail to do two things; wearing masks at all times and getting vaccinated against the disease.
She invited Kenyans to have a look at Covid-19 numbers; from the positive cases to those that have been hospitalised, in the general wards, Intensive Care and High Dependency Units and change the situation for themselves.
“Testing goes down during weekends, so the 262 positive cases we are seeing today could still be a pointer that there are more positive cases out there,” the PS noted.
If you are not feeling well, she appealed to Kenyans, “please go and get tested. Covid is a matter of life and death. Today 4 people are in the ICU, 8 in HDU, and 118 in various health facilities.”
6th wave of COVID-19
Currently, Kenya is battling the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic since the first case of the virus was in March 2020. The PS expressed concern that people who are suffering from non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are most at risk of developing severe COVID-19.
Non-communicable diseases are responsible for 39 per cent of the deaths in our country.
“What remains a big challenge for us as a country is that despite the sustained supply of vaccines to all parts of the country, there are still many Kenyans who have yet to get fully vaccination,” Mochache noted.
She rooted for a multi-sectoral and integrated approach in a bid to address the low coverage of COVID-19 vaccination that the country is currently experiencing.
“It is on this premise that we have introduced the Accelerated COVID-19 Vaccination Programme to rally more Kenyans to embrace the vaccinations that are available in most of the health facilities near them,” she pointed out reiterating that vaccination, particularly in preventing the development of severe COVID-19 disease and associated deaths, is the surest model.
More than 5,000 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19 so far since the virus hit the country in March 2020, leaving millions of others bearing its impact; economically and socially.
She noted that out of the total 27.8 million vaccine doses received in the country through donations and the UN-based Covax facility, AstraZeneca vaccines lead with 10.3 million vaccine doses so far.
The unveiled mobile clinics, the first of their kind in the world, Mochache said will support communities with limited or no access to vaccines and other health services. The mobile clinics are custom-built, and fitted with solar-powered fridges and a backup power supply.
Dr Githinji Gitahi, Group Chief Executive Officer Amref Health Africa, said the initiative will help increase vaccine access and uptake in Kenya.
As of 17 June 2022, 31.4 per cent of the adult population in Kenya was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while Africa’s average vaccination rate is 17.7 per cent lagging behind other world regions.
“Each mobile clinic aims to vaccinate 70-100 people per day reaching up to 1,000 people per day once all 10 mobile clinics are fully operational,” he said.
The mobile clinics will help to bridge the COVID-19 vaccine gap by providing vaccine education, COVID-19 screening, safe and accessible vaccination, and post-immunisation care. Timely data capture and reporting are facilitated through onsite web-enabled computers. Amref Flying Doctors (AFD) will replenish the mobile clinics in hard-to-reach areas to ensure their effective deployment.
“It is evident that health emergencies are here to stay, and thinking out of the box through innovations in health may be our only chance at timely response if, and when emergencies occur,” Gitahi said.
According to him, addressing other health determinants such as non-communicable diseases that influence how health emergencies affect people is critical to avert the negative impact that health emergencies such as COVID-19 have on communities.
“The movable clinics are, therefore, a great addition to the toolkit that will ensure equity in access to last-mile communities with much-needed vaccination and essential health services. Ultimately, the clinics will add to the health system infrastructure, further improving our preparedness for health emergencies in the country,” he added.
Dr Pelin Incesu, Area Vice President, AstraZeneca for the Middle East and Africa noted that the innovative partnership is aimed at ensuring no Kenyan is left behind.
“This is part of AstraZeneca's ongoing commitment to a patient-centric response to the pandemic. To date, over three billion doses of our COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered across the globe, helping to save an estimated 3.6 million lives,” she said.
The clinics will incorporate health promotion to raise awareness of NCDs and provide NCD health service continuity, specifically targeting people living with diabetes and hypertension.
“When not conducting community outreach, the clinics will support existing public health infrastructure by serving as fixed clinics, thereby reducing the burden on local health facilities,” she added.
At the beginning of 2022 following global reports of waning immunity from covid-19 vaccinations, Kenya started the administration of 3rd doses as booster shots and aims to administer 4.2 million booster shots by June 2022 to all eligible adults.
Kenya has planned to fully vaccinate 19 million adults, about 70 per cent of the adult population by end of June 2022 and the entire adult population of 27 million people by the end of the year.
During the same period, it will also aim to fully vaccinate 2.9 million teenagers aged 15-17 years about 50 per cent of the population and the entire teenage population of 5.8 million by end of December 2022.