Know Your Vaccine: Everything you need to know about Kenya’s vaccination plan

Vaccine education time!

There’s been a lot of talk about Kenya’s first round of COVID-19 vaccines: who’s getting them, who’s not getting them, who’s willing to take them. But, no need to strain your fingers googling these questions, ThisNairobi has your back. Read on to find the answers to all of the most pressing questions about Kenya’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

What is COVAX? 

COVAX stands for COVID19 Vaccine Global Access initiative. The initiative is co-managed by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the WHO. A major goal of COVAX is to ensure that all countries have access to COVID19 vaccines regardless of income level.

When a country signs up to participate in the COVAX facility, they are given two options. 

Option 1: pay for their country’s own COVID-19 vaccines (self-finance) 

Option 2: receive aid funding through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

Countries that opt to self-finance pay a premium for vaccines, which helps finance vaccines for nations that need financial assistance. Self-financing nations are guaranteed enough vaccines for their population. 

Participants who are funded through government aid, like Kenya, will only receive enough COVID-19 vaccinations to vaccinate 20% of their population

The majority of its funding for COVAX’s aid program has come from high-income countries and international organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Read more about COVAX here.

What is the third wave?

The “third wave” is a term being used to refer to a rapid increase in COVID19 cases caused by the introduction of new variants of the virus to the population. 

What are the new variants of COVID19?

Viruses change over time through mutation. This is why a new flu vaccine is issued every year. COVID19 has mutated multiple times in the past year. At present, there are three new variants of the virus. They are:

  • B.1.1.7: The UK Variant 
    • First detected in the US at the end of December 2020
    • Spreads more quickly and easily than other variants 
    • It May be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variant viruses (this possibility is still being researched by scientists)
  • B.1.351: The South Africa Variant
    •   Originally detected in early October 2020
    • Shares some mutations with the UK variant 
  • P.1: Brazil
    • Detected in early January 
    • Contains an additional set of antibodies that might make it hard to  detect 

* The UK variant was brought to Kenya by soldiers from the UK in February 

Which vaccines are available in Nairobi?

Photo Credit: ThisNairobi
AstraZeneca vaccine from India

At present, the AstraZeneca-Oxford (simply referred to as AstraZeneca) vaccine is the only vaccine available in Kenya. The AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at lower temperatures than other vaccines. For example, the Pfizer vaccines must be stored at extremely cold temperatures (2-8°C) to be effective. AstraZeneca’s low storage point is one of the reasons why it’s being used in African nations.

The batch of AstraZeneca vaccines shipped to Kenya from India were produced by the country’s Serum Institute.

On March 31st Health CS, Dr.Mercy Mwangangi, announced that Russia’s Sputnik -5 vaccine received authorization for emergency use in Kenya. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is currently in the process of setting up emergency use criteria for Sputnik-5 with the private sector. The MOH plans to issue a list of locations where the vaccine can be purchased.

How Many doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will I have to take?

In total, you will take two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In Kenya, the second dose will be administered 8 weeks after the first.

How effective is the AstraZeneca vaccine?

Photo Source: VOX

A common term used when discussing how effective a vaccine is in protecting an individual from COVID-19 is the “efficacy rate”. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines efficacy rate is 62%. 

This does not mean that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is only 62% effective! It also does not mean that 38 out of 100 people who take the vaccine will get COVID-19! The efficacy rate applies to the individual. So, an efficacy rate of 62% means that an individual that takes the vaccine will be 62% less likely to get COVID-19. 

Studies have also shown that when an individual that has taken the vaccine does get COVID-19, they are less likely to experience severe symptoms.

Remember: The goal of administering COVID-19 vaccines is not to get COVID-19 cases to zero! Rather, it’s to reduce disease, hospitalization and death. 

Learn more about the efficacy rates of different COVID-19 vaccines  here.

How and when does Kenya plan to vaccinate everyone? 

Kenya’s vaccination plan goes up to the year 2023. By then, Kenya expects to receive 49 million doses, enough to vaccinate 30% of the population. The nation is set to receive 24 million of these vaccines through COVAX.

On March 3rd, Kenya received its first 1.02 million dose shipment of the Astrazeneca vaccine. That same day, it received an additional 100,000 doses from the Indian government. 

400,000 coronavirus jabs were set aside for medical workers. Kenya’s government has also offered free vaccines to all diplomats and UN workers residing in the nation.

COVID19 vaccines are not yet available to the population at large. 

Is it Ok to take two different brands of COVID-19 vaccines?

Usually, when taking a vaccine, you get one initial shot and a follow-up called a “booster”. The booster is meant to improve your immune system’s response to the virus.

Some say taking a booster vaccine that is different from your initial shot could result in a different immune response, instead of boosting the first one.

Others say that taking two different vaccines could be beneficial in certain situations.

In short, the verdict is still out and more research needs to be done. It is best to stick with the same vaccine for now.

Read more about taking different COVID-19 vaccines here.

How much will it cost? 

Global supply is limited, so the COVID19 vaccine is not yet available for retail purchase in Kenya. The vaccines that have been administered in Kenya thus far have been free of charge.

Where can I get vaccinated? 

For those interested in getting the #COVID19 vaccine in Nairobi, it’s being offered for free to anyone 18+ at Medical Practitioners and Dentists Licensing Board on Woodlands Ave, near Lenana Road until Thursday, April 1st.

Arrive by 8:00 AM. You will be asked to line up and will then receive a registration sheet with a number on it like the one below. Priority groups (those 65 older & those with pre-existing conditions) receive green sheets.

Medical practitioners begin issuing Dose 1 of the vaccine in order of the number on your sheet at around 11:00 AM. In the days that follow, you’ll receive a text telling you when to return for your second dose.

What other questions do you have about Kenya’s vaccination plan?

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