Editor's PicksOpinion

Vaccine stock outs, a threat to Kenya’s immunization and health strategy

By Dr Margaret Lubaale

As we celebrate the 2024 immunization week, Health Civil Society Organizations in collaboration with HENNET are deeply concerned on the community reported Vaccine stockouts of BCG, Measles, Polio, Rotavirus in different parts of the county and unconfirmed measles outbreaks in Garissa County.

The stock out is feared to compromise the ability to implement timely and effective immunization campaigns to prevent the spread of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. This shortage of vaccines poses a grave risk to public health and undermines our efforts to achieve immunization coverage targets in Kenya. If not addressed, the country is likely to lose the gains already made in health indicators like maternal and child mortality rates.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) immunization plays a big role in reducing under 5 years mortality and is a critical pillar of primary health care in Kenya. Kenya’s commitment towards IA2030 envisions a world where everyone, everywhere, at every age, fully benefits from vaccines to improve health and well-being.

Immunization is a national public health right and is a key component of Kenya’s National Health Policy Framework, which is aligned with the 2010 Constitution and Kenya Vision 2030.

The Ministry of Health through the National Vaccines and Immunization Program has prioritized immunization services as a high impact-low-cost intervention and is maintaining vaccine coverage levels sufficient to control most vaccine-preventable diseases. The Kenya immunization coverage has remained significantly higher, though Kenya still falls short of these targets with 80% national coverage with a significant sub-national variation.

In addition, we are deeply concerned at the immunization budget reduction in the Supplementary budget FY 2023/2024 (0410040 Immunization Management) from 9,892,774,930 to 9,429,639,546 which is a 463,135,384 reduction. This reduction might affect the full implementation of the planned vaccination and immunization program across the Country.

It is in this regard that the health CSOs have written to the Ministry of health, the health committees of National Assembly and Senate for the vaccine stock out situation to be handled. Among the key areas identified by the CSOs include:

Enhanced Surveillance and Rapid Response: Strengthen surveillance systems to promptly detect and investigate suspected cases of measles, including laboratory confirmation and epidemiological analysis. Implement rapid response measures, including outbreak investigations, contact tracing, and case management, to contain and control the spread of disease.

Immediate emergency Vaccine Procurement and Distribution: Expedite the procurement and distribution of all vaccines to replenish depleted stocks and ensure uninterrupted access to vaccination services in all health facilities nationwide. Prioritize high-risk areas and vulnerable populations to mitigate the impact of the vaccine shortage and prevent further transmission of measles.

Collaboration and Coordination: Foster collaboration and coordination among government agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations, and international partners to mobilize resources, share information, and coordinate response efforts effectively. Leverage existing networks and platforms to facilitate communication and collaboration at the national, regional, and local levels.

Increased domestic resources for health in the national budget FY2024/2025: We call upon the national assembly to increase the national budget for the national immunization program, as well as ringfence funds allocated to the program for sustained gains

As voices and agents of concerned citizens, we stand ready to support the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders in these efforts to address these urgent health challenges and protect the well-being of our communities.

Dr Lubaale is the Executive Director Hennet.

The Health NGOs Network (HENNET) was founded in 2005 and registered in 2007 as an NGO intending to coordinate and network the CSOs in the health sector, with the view of providing a common platform among the CSOs dealing with health-related issues in Kenya for purposes of collaboration, sharing of experiences and advocacy. HENNET has a membership of over 112 organizations. Contact: director@hennet.or.ke, admin@hennet.or.ke

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