By Samuel Ouma
Kenya’s Ministry of Health through its Division of National Vaccines and Immunizations Programme has rolled out a 100-day targeting children, adolescents, and women who did not attend routine immunization for vaccination.
The ongoing campaign, targets children under five, adolescent girls aged 10-14 years and pregnant women.
The campaign taking place in the 8,000 immunization facilities countrywide targets to reach the unvaccinated through defaulter tracing and outreaches in schools and communities.
“The Ministry of Health has availed all vaccines in all immunizing facilities and urges parents and guardians to ensure that their children complete the immunization schedule including the second dose of measles rubella which is given at 18 months,” said Health Acting Director General Dr. Patrick Amoth during a stakeholder and media sensitization meeting held on Tuesday in Nairobi.
Dr. Amoth told the forum that despite efforts by the ministry to reach at least 90% of children with lifesaving vaccines, immunization coverage has stagnated at 80% with some of the vaccines like HPV and the second dose of measles rubella vaccine falling behind at 30% and 50% respectively.
In addition, some counties reported a vaccination coverage of only 60%.
“The gap in immunization means there are several children who do not have immunity against these vaccine preventable diseases.
It is estimated that every year, there are at least 300,000 infants who miss critical vaccines. Outbreaks of measles continue to occur in different parts of the country, evidence of the low immunity to disease,” explained the Health Acting Director General.
Every year, the Ministry of Health targets to vaccinate at least 1.5 million children against vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, polio, tuberculosis, diarrhea and pneumonia.
Currently, one in six children under one year do not complete their scheduled vaccines, only one in two children below 2 years have received the second jab of Measles Rubella(MR) and only one in 3 girls aged 10 have received 2 doses of HPV vaccine which protects against cervical cancer.
Head of the National Vaccine Immunization Program (NVIP) Dr. Lucy Mecca addressing the forum, said there is need for innovative strategies to reach the target population and bridge the gap of high numbers of unvaccinated children under five in counties.
“The main objective of the periodic intensification of routine immunization is to vaccinate at least 95% of children between 9-59 months with Measles Rubella (MR) vaccine including the second dose.
We also want to vaccinate 70% of girls aged between 10-14 years with HPV vaccine to protect them against cervical cancer and reduce malaria vaccine drop out between the 3rd and 4th dose in the eligible counties from 30% to 10%.” said Dr. Mecca.
Speaking at the forum, World Health Organization (WHO) representative Dr. Yaron Wolman, commended the Ministry of Health for the extraordinary work in reaching the unvaccinated through the 100-day campaign initiative.
“Vaccination is one of the most cost effective interventions in saving lives of children, girls and women across the globe including here Kenya. This is one of the key interventions which has also been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the last 21 months” stated Dr. Wolman.
UNICEF representative Dr. Iheoma Onuekwusi in her remarks, called for strengthening of capacity to increase vaccination efforts.
“We take this opportunity to request the Ministry of Health to take adequate steps to ensure provision of adequate human resources and cold chain storage space are available to cope with the expanded volume of vaccination activities for both periodic intensification of routine immunization (PIRI) and COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.”
The vaccines listed in routine immunization include; BCG for tuberculosis, OPV and IPV for poliomyelitis, Rotavirus for rotavirus diarrhea, DPT diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, pneumonia and meningitis.
Others are pneumococcal conjugate vaccine-10, measles rubella, yellow fever, malaria vaccine, tetanus diphtheria and HPV for 10-14-year-old girls.
The 100-day periodic intensification of routine immunization campaign kicked off on the 1st of November 2021 and will end on the 10th of February 2022.