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Gov’t rolls out Covid-19 jab for truck drivers, traders

The National Government and the East African Community in collaboration with Busia County Government has kicked off a vaccination drive targeting cross border women traders and long-distance truck drivers along the Busia and Malaba One Stop Border Posts.

The vaccination exercise funded by DANIDA and the EU through TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) and supported by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) as implementing partners started at the Busia One Stop Border Post and rolled out to the Malaba border entry points over the next one week.

Speaking at Busia One Stop Border Post during the launch, the Head of Public Private Dialogue at KEPSA, Patrick Maingi, said it was a huge public health and safety risk for the border communities to remain unvaccinated noting that most of the populace depended on small-scale traders and the transport industry facilitated by truck drivers for their livelihoods.

“The pandemic has had an adverse effect on cross border trade as many critical trade activities were stalled due to the resultant lockdowns and curfews. With the uptake of vaccines, we shall not only protect ourselves and our businesses, but also progressively secure jobs and reclaim normalcy to spur recovery of trade across the borders to pre-pandemic levels,” said Maingi.

He explained that KEPSA is committed to working with the Government and other stakeholders in encouraging Covid-19 vaccinations with an aim to reaching hard immunity faster across the nation.

The vaccine drive at the border entry points is expected to ensure that regional trade continues safely to avoid the country from going back into the stringent lock-down measures that negatively impacted the economy, general health, and social wellbeing of Kenyans.

The Ministry of Health has indicated that stopping the spread of Covid-19, will require several measures, and has advocated for vaccination to be included amongst the preventative measures.

Ahmed Farah, the Trademark East Africa Manager, revealed that the organisation has initiated other interventions that will enable women traders to re-engage in cross-border trade following disruptions occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Farah said the interventions included construction of a Safe Trade Market at Soko Posta, development of and sensitisation on the Safe Trade Zone protocols and delivery of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the women traders.

“As we roll this out, we recognize and appreciate ongoing efforts by different partners to ensure a larger number of the population has access to vaccinations. This will greatly alleviate the effects and disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic on cross border trade as well as transport & logistics supply chains,” said Farah.

Morgens Strunge Larsen, Team Lead Sustainable Jobs and Trade, DANIDA said that they have collaborated with the MOH to push for a larger population to get vaccinated so that the country is safe to carry out day-to-day business activities.

“Our partnership with MOH in combating the effects of Covid-19 is critical at this time. It is our interest to see continuation of business, and protection of livelihoods with a special focus on women cross-border traders and the transport and logistics sector. Our aim in supporting this initiative is to help Busia bridge the access gap for vaccines,” said Larsen.

Jonathan Ino, the County Chief Officer of Public Health revealed that they have so far managed to vaccinate 85,000 people in the county and are targeting a population of 119,000 people by 5th of December and 465,000 by February next year.

The kick-off of the vaccination exercise was preceded by an awareness and sensitization workshop for the cross-border business communities among other stakeholders on the importance of the Covid-19 vaccine.

By Milton Ojiambo and Absalom Namwalo

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