COVID-19: Vaccinations begin for Kenyan health workers
Frontline health workers first to receive the vaccine
Despite a sore arm, Jemimah Katama, a nurse, is delighted to have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
As lead coordinator at Kenyatta National Hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control department, she knows better than most how important the immunization can be.
“My decision to get the vaccine today is to give others the confidence that it is safe,” Katama says.
She was among the first to receive one of more than a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine procured and distributed in Kenya by UNICEF as part of the COVAX Facility.
COVAX is a global initiative launched by the World Health Organization, the European Commission and France last April to ensure COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines reach the developing world.
Coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO, COVAX supports the research, development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines.
All participating countries, regardless of income levels, are being given equal access to the vaccines once they are developed.
Katama was one of about 110 health workers who were vaccinated at the hospital on the first day. She will now have to wait eight weeks for her second shot.
She recalled how she had wanted to get the vaccine as quickly as possible but her family was at first concerned. However, after a discussion, they agreed that taking the vaccine was a good idea.
“My family has been very supportive because they understand I am a frontline health worker. Now they can’t wait for their turn.”
Kenyatta National Hospital chief executive Dr Evanson Kamuri, who also received the vaccine, said it was a historic day.
“In the last year, COVID-19 changed our world, including how we work,” says Dr Kamuri.
“My resolve to beat the virus is even stronger now. The vaccine is an extra tool to take us through this current phase.”
Acting Health Director-General Patrick Amoth was the first to receive the vaccine. Kenyatta National Hospital Chief Executive Dr Evanson Kamuri followed suit, in an exercise that saw around 110 health workers receive the life-saving vaccine.
United Nations Resident Coordinator Dr Stephen Jackson described the “historic and moving moment” when the first frontline health workers received their vaccinations. “Let me assure all Kenyans that I have absolute confidence in the vaccine's safety and in its urgency, its importance and its necessity,” he said.
Dr Jackson thanked donors including the US, Japan, Saudi Arabia, EU, Canada and UK, plus foundations and companies including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who have supported the COVAX facility.
He quoted a Swahili proverb, “baada ya dhiki, faraja” (after hardship comes relief) to symbolize the relief brought by the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kenya. However, he urged all to continue observing social distancing, wearing our masks, washing and disinfecting hands.
“If we see some light at the end of the tunnel, we are not yet close to being out of it. We must not drop our guard,” Dr Jackson said at the event officiated by the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Susan Mochache.
World Health Organisation country representative Dr Rudi Eggers made an appeal for the vaccine uptake adding that it had had passed the safety test.
“The Astra Zeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India, this vaccine has been reviewed and found safe not only by WHO itself, but by several stringent regulatory authorities, including the United States FDA and the European regulatory authority. In addition, many millions of these vaccines have now been administered across the world, and no additional safety signals have been received. So, let us be clear, these vaccines are safe!,” Dr Eggers said.
Here are some of the health workers who received the vaccine.
“I’m excited that I’m one of the first healthcare workers to get the vaccine. I encourage others to get the vaccine. I feel happy and protected from COVID-19.”
“I’ve been waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine and I’m excited that it’s here. I feel excited to be among the first healthcare workers to receive the vaccine during this historic moment.”
“This vaccine protects myself, my patients and my family from COVID-19. I am looking forward to the second dose.”
“I am very happy the vaccine finally here. We are exposed to many people at work but now I feel safer because I have had the COVID-19 vaccine.”
As a health worker, I felt compelled to take the COVID-19 vaccine as an extra shield, because I am at a higher risk of infection. Having the jab today is a further demonstration that the vaccine is safe. Prevention starts with me."
“I’m glad the vaccine is here and I feel safe. I would tell my fellow health workers to get vaccinated. We are on the frontline and need to be protected from COVID-19.”
“It feels great to be protected as a frontline worker because every day we deal with COVID-19. It’s a privilege to get this vaccine- other health workers should take this opportunity, because we are most at risk.”