Written by Staff Writer by Daniela Teissier, CNN
Kenya’s new policy mandates that all children in the country get access to a combination of vaccines known as the the Covid-19, which combines 21 modern vaccines. While the new policy includes a new focus on diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, pneumonia and whooping cough vaccines, nutritionists have already voiced concerns about a soon-to-be-introduced tetanus bacillus conjugate vaccine, commonly known as the Tdap vaccine.
Covid-19 has helped reduce the incidence of pneumonia by 30% in Uganda. Credit: Pixabay/KenMorales
The new policy, which was announced in January, was welcomed by the World Health Organization and other global organizations, including UNAIDS. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, said in a statement, “new vaccines … are critical for reducing human suffering and saving lives around the world. We are very pleased by the adoption of the new strategy of providing fully immunized children, at least until they turn two years old, with vaccines recommended by WHO to protect them against life-threatening diseases and prevent stunted growth.”
Experts also say the new policy will likely save the lives of tens of thousands of children and lead to shorter hospital stays for those with high-prevalence diseases.
Diphtheria and tetanus are two of the most common childhood illnesses in Kenya and were the major cause of childhood death until the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to WHO. Uganda’s low case incidence of the diseases has been credited to the introduction of the vaccine in 2010.
How the Covid-19 vaccine works
The Covid-19 vaccine, which is manufactured by Merck & Co., includes vaccines for measles, rubella, pneumococcal pneumonia, rotavirus, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), chicken pox, hepatitis B, rubella, meningococcal conjugate, tetanus, tetanus toxoid and diphtheria, and bacillus conjugate (Tdap).
The British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline — an agency of the UK government — manufactures the Tdap vaccine, which makes it the first vaccine of its kind to include protection against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and pertussis (whooping cough).
Health officials advise the rollout of the vaccination begins next year and will include 50%, or 17.7 million children under the age of five, in the country’s healthcare systems.
The new policy will cost Kenya’s health service an estimated $1.9 million every year, according to the country’s Ministry of Health, Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki. The government is also considering offering financial assistance to those making the transition from obtaining their vaccines from community health centers.
Critics of the new policy say the move will increase costs, shift supplies to government institutions and increase the number of vaccines children are receiving. By requiring that children get at least two doses of immunization, the policy will increase the cost of administering the vaccination, experts say.