By Lynace Mwashigadi/Margaret Kalekye
The Ministry of Health has allayed fears of the safety of vaccines being administered countrywide, as the vaccination drive enters its third day.
Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu accused the clergy of insincerity following its utterances that the measles, rubella and tetanus vaccines are not safe, yet they too participated in the early stages of the awareness campaign.
19 million children being targeted for the Jab in the next one and a half weeks.
Mailu questions why the clergy did not raise objections earlier, having been involved in the vaccination campaign in the initial stages, and even witnessed the testing of the vaccine.
Mailu who remains optimistic about the drive, has asked Kenyans to participate in large numbers, in efforts to bring down prevalence of infectious diseases in the country.
His sentiments come even as the nationwide vaccination drive entered its third day, Wednesday with few mothers presented their babies in public health centers to get the jab.
The assurance comes amid apprehension by parents following cases of administration of wrong injections by unqualified health workers.
The immunization exercise is the largest ever to be held in the country and will take place in all public health facilities as well as identified churches and schools.
The Rubella vaccine will be administered for the first time in the country, after it was noted that many cases of the disease were being reported with the most affected group being expectant women, consequently causing deformity and other serious birth defects to the unborn child.
The disease has symptoms similar to measles such as red rash, fever, painful joint and muscle spasm, clenched teeth, swollen lymph glands around the ears and the back of the head. Up to 50 per cent of rubella victims may not show symptoms.
The national measles- rubella (MR) vaccination campaign will be integrated with the tetanus immunisation.
Tetanus kills 400 children annually in Kenya. Globally, one newborn dies every nine minutes from tetanus.
The tetanus campaign targets 11 high prone counties including Kilifi, Mombasa, Meru, Mandera and Wajir. Others are Garissa, Baringo, West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Narok.
The Health ministry says the immunisation drive requires 21.8 million doses of the MR vaccine and 23.5 million syringes, adding that already 20,000 vaccination centres have been set up with 42,000 health workers and 24,000 volunteers trained.
The one-and-a-half-week campaign will cost Sh2.1 billion.
Elsewhere, HIV researchers have raised concern over the dwindling of funding for HIV vaccine research in Kenya.
Speaking during the World HIV Vaccine Day, Clinical Research Physician Dr. Borna Nyaoke says while Kenya has made tremendous contribution in HIV vaccine research the challenge of reduced funding may prove detrimental in the long run if Africa and Kenya in particular does not implement alternative funding measures for HIV.
She said finding an HIV vaccine is the solution to saving lives and cutting cost of treatment
Kenya has so far conducted over eight different HIV vaccine trials including seven phase one trials. Also speaking during the forum Matungulu Member of Parliament Dr. Stephen Mule who is also the member of the parliamentary TB caucus said it high time African governments contribute towards funding of HIV research and development. He promised to persuade parliament to allocate funds towards HIV research and development
Funding for HIV and Aids has been dwindling over the years affecting the delivery care to the most vulnerable in Sub Saharan Africa including Kenya which bears the greatest burden of HIV and Aids.