The Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government has expressed satisfaction with the uptake of Covid-19 vaccines in prisons, two weeks since the launch of a mass vaccination exercise in the correctional facilities.
Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Winnie Guchu, said in Malindi, that the ministry had embarked on a country-wide monitoring exercise to assess the uptake of the vaccines among inmates and prison staff.
She said prisons that had been visited on the first day of a monitoring exercise had revealed that the Covid-19 vaccine sensitization campaign in prisons was yielding fruit among prisoners and prison staff.
Ms Guchu, who was speaking at the Malindi Maximum Prison, said her team had visited prisons in Garissa, Lamu, Tana River and Kilifi Counties, where it found out that some of the correctional facilities had recorded more than 90 percent vaccine uptake among both staff and prisoners.
Ms Guchu was in the company of officials of the Kenya Prison Service led by the Commissioner General Wycliffe Ogallo, and Kilifi County Commissioner, Kutswa Olaka among others.
She said that prisoners were especially enthusiastic about taking the jabs as they long to be visited by relatives, who have been kept away from the facilities since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country more than a year and a half ago.
“The inmates have not been able to be visited because we do not want to introduce Covid-19 into the prisons from visitors. After consultations with the Ministry of Health, we concluded that the only way we can resume visitation in prisons is by making sure that all the inmates and staff are vaccinated, “she said.
She pointed that lack of visitation had posed a lot of challenges among inmates, including psychological and mental health issues, as well as lack of certain basic needs like toiletries, including soap, toothpaste and tissue paper,that are usually supplied to the inmates by their relatives.
The CAS emphasized that vaccination is voluntary, but added that a lot of sensitizations efforts had taken place among prison staff and inmates and that was why the ministry was optimistic that the vaccine uptake would hit 100 percent for both staff and prisoners.
“The reason we have not hit 100 percent since the launch of the mass vaccination exercise is because there are still some people who are reluctant. We are not forcing them. We are sensitizing them,” she stressed.
She added that the inmates were insisting that the officers who are working with them get vaccinated because the inmates themselves recognize the danger of being exposed to the deadly contagion.
“That is why you actually find that the uptake is moving much faster among the inmates than it is with the staff. For example, in Hindi, Hola and Garissa, you will find that the uptake is above 90 percent for both staff and the inmates,” she said.
The Malindi Maximum Prison had recorded a 60 percent uptake among inmates and 58 percent among staff. She said and expressed confidence that the institution will have recorded 100 percent uptake by Friday this week.
Kilifi County Health Executive Karisa Dadu, said the supply chain of vaccines in the devolved unit had greatly improved, with Astra Zeneca and Moderna vaccines having been successfully rolled out.
He said some 38,000 Kilifi residents had received the jabs, with 5,000 having been fully vaccinated. He said Johnson and Johnson vaccines had also arrived in the county and would be rolled out.
Mr Dadu thanked political leaders in the county for spearheading the vaccination campaign, saying that had led to a great improvement in vaccine uptake. He said the county had also increased the number of vaccination stations to reach more residents.
He said his department had been giving a special service to prisons through targeted allocation of testing kits and vaccines.
“So far we have recorded 317 positive cases in the prisons, 315 of them inmates, he said adding that all the positive cases had recovered,” he said.
By Emmanuel Masha