By HENRY OWINO
According to Dr Jeremy Gitau, Covid-19 is not a new virus as it is among a group of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which is a viral respiratory disease responsible for 30% of common colds that infect people across the globe. Currently, there are many people being infected by this group of viruses hence the need to develop vaccines for protection.
“Vaccination is the simplest and effective way of protecting people from diseases that pose threat to their lives and wellbeing. When vaccine is introduced into the body, it develops immunity to the body thus hard-immunity protecting the person from the pathogens,” Dr Gitau explained.
Dr Gitau emphasized the vaccine is safe for use and there is no cause of alarm concerning the ongoing vaccination roll-out. He revealed the vaccine targets 30% of the Kenya population thus 15.8 million out of 50 million people.
“As per now, the frontline health professionals and essential service providers such as security personnel, teaching staff and people working in congested environments are priority,” he expounded.
“In Kenya, Dr Patrick Amoth, the acting Director for Medical Services was the first Kenyan to be immunized by the vaccine. This shows that the vaccine is safe and effective so there should be no fear,” Dr Giatu disclosed.
He said an individual can develop hard-immunity through exposure to Covid-19 infections and this could finally lead to large population immunity. He however said there are three major ways of developing the immunity.
The first and the best is through vaccination. The other is body self-immunity and third one is body self-immunity after surviving the virus infection. Despite these three advantages, Dr Gitau cautions that the last two could be a weak immunity system and people still need to get vaccinated.
According to Dr Gitau, the present vaccination roll-out, governments aim at developing hard-immunity to its population. The vaccine might not be enough for everyone at the moment and that is the reason for administering it in phases.
Concerning the rush to develop the vaccines, he explained it went through all the required phases to ensure its safety and efficacy to the population. For instance, phase one; the pre-clinical trial with a sample of people phase two which is aimed at finding out the best dose and response for protection and efficacy, phase three about protection, efficacy and registration for mass vaccination and finally phase four is licensing the vaccine for administration to the general population.
Dr Gitau said the vaccines are not just distributed but procured by registered organizations on behalf of countries for dispatch. For example, COVAX a coalition of three organizations thus GAVI, CEPI and WHO are responsible for acceleration, development and distribution of the vaccines to the rest of the world.
“COVAX is currently responsible for AstraZeneca vaccines for most Africa countries. It takes care of 20% of country population in the world,” Dr Gitau said.
“AstraZeneca vaccines have conducive temperature that exists in most Africa countries. The vaccine generally requires temperatures between 2 – 8 degrees Celsius which is already in Africa,” he emphasized.
The Covid-19 vaccines has been developed in time record compared to any other vaccines because the Scientists did not start from a scratch. They used already existing virus like Ebola to enhance its effectiveness against the Covid-19 pathogens.
The new existing technology in place boosted the researchers work leading to quick outcome. There was also common global interest by countries to develop the protective vaccine for its population.
The Covid-19 Champion in Kenya said vaccination follows certain protocols. First, one has to pre-register in a particular health facility, be a healthcare provider, have no fever less than 38 degree Celsius, not have suffered Covid-19 in the last 6 months, provide written or verbal consent, not allergic chicken and egg protein or not pregnant or breast feeding.
Unfortunately, people with less 18 years and pregnant mothers would not be vaccinated because they were not tested during vaccine trials.
“Pregnant and breast feeding mothers is not a guarantee to be denied vaccine as they were not involved during the clinical trials,” Dr Gitau clarifies.
He said the side effects could be flu, injection side pains, mild fever, headache, joint pains etc.
The vaccine will be administered in three main phases. Phase one id for essential services providers, Phase two is people above 50 years or with underlying health conditions (comorbidities) and Phase three are people in densely populated settings, street families among others.
In Kenya the three phases of vaccination is expected to roll-out up to June 2023.