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Kenya marks world immunisation week

The Ministry of Health and the Kenya Paediatric Research Consortium are focused on finding and vaccinating children who missed routine vaccinations, possibly because of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within the past three years since the onset of the pandemic, Kenya and the world have lost an estimated 30 years of progress in the fight against vaccine preventable diseases, and as such, there has been an increase in outbreaks of diseases such as measles and poliomyelitis.

Speaking during an event to mark World Immunisation Week, Dr. Riro Mwita, a physician at Kiambu Level 5 Hospital and a poliomyelitis survivor, said that the ultimate goal of World Immunisation Week, which is celebrated annually during the last week of April, is for communities to be protected from vaccine preventable diseases.

“I contracted polio, a debilitating disease that affects the nerves, at the age of one, which made me unable to walk without the use of walking aids. I was not immunised against polio because, at that time, there were no health centers with vaccines close to where my parents and I lived. The nearest health center was 20 kilometers away, and transport was a major challenge. This was in the late 1970s.”

“It has been quite the journey living with the effects of the disease from the time I joined primary school in 1983 to this present day. At school I was unable to participate in many physical activities, and I almost dropped out of school, but in 1985 I had surgery to remove contractures in my legs, and a few months later I was able to go back to school to continue and complete my primary education, after which I joined a local high school, then a university thereafter, where I managed to do an undergraduate and master’s degree, and I am now a physician specializing in internal medicine,” said Dr. Mwita.

He said all these issues could have been prevented if he had been immunised early and urged parents to ensure that their children are immunised, especially in this pandemic era where there are many conspiracy theories surrounding the use of vaccines.

“Vaccines work, and a lot of people who have been immunised over the years have been protected from diseases like polio. I strongly urge parents to ensure their children receive all the prerequisite vaccines prescribed by the Ministry of Health to spare themselves and their children the trauma of having to live with conditions that can be avoided, especially now that they are available in all government health centers,” he said.

He added that immunisations are the most effective way of protecting children against diseases.

The theme for this year’s World Immunisation Week is “The Big Catch Up”.

By Hellen Lunalo

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