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Push for African states to boost vaccine science

The African continent needs to build citizens’ confidence in vaccine science to reverse misinformation, disinformation, and myths associated with COVID-19.

The myths, misinformation, and disinformation went viral, reversing the gains made by partners in the fight against the pandemic.

Agakhan Graduate School of Media & Communication (GSMC), during a  sensitisation forum for journalists from Western Kenya who converged in Kisumu to spearhead the fight against vaccine hesitancy while demystifying myths and misconceptions, noted that with such confidence, citizens are able to adapt and make informed choices.

Led by Prof. Obi Obiero Odhiambo and Dr. James Ndonye, both of GSMC, through the sponsorship of the German Finance Corporation and Aga Khan University, the forum held an interesting discourse touching on COVID-19.

The programme is running concurrently in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to scale up the fight against COVID-19, even as the global trend appears to indicate that the pandemic was on a downward trend.

“We will do outreach programmes in schools, churches, universities, and middle level colleges. This followed the revelation that only 53% presented themselves to get the jab while 47% others kept off for various reasons,” he explained.

Dr. Ndonye revealed that AgaKhan University was currently developing a Blueprint for the government of Kenya to prepare itself for a future response in case of another round of COVID-19 strikes.

He concurred with Prof. Obiero that there was a lackluster response to COVID-19 in Kenya, while it was a nightmare trying to access data from the local Health System.

Prof. Obiero said our Health Information System was very weak, unlike the one used in fighting HIV, TB, and malaria, describing the latter as quite robust because it was preferred and funded by foreign partners.

He described a low Ratio between doctors and patients, attributing this to persistent brain drain.

Health stakeholders blamed poor remuneration while doctors, clinicians, and nurses worked non-stop for up to 48 hours.

Kenya has “brick and mortar” in terms of equipment, buildings, and machines, but all these are tied to procurement, which is quite laborious and a hardnut to crack while seeking drugs and vaccines, argued Obiero.

In relation to Health financing, he said most African countries performed dismally, yet the Abuja Declaration required each country to set aside 5% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Health.

Ironically, Kenya, which is said to have done well in light of having set aside 1.3% of their budgetary allocation to Health against the set standard of 5%, and other countries in the continent are all below 1%,” explained the don.

Prof. Obiero said without adequate Health Financing as stipulated in Abuja, we as Third World countries cannot reverse the woes of doctors getting paid less than Members of the County Assemblies (MCAs).

How did Kenyans respond to the coronavirus? Was it willingness or skepticism? He questioned the prevailing narrative on COVID-19, with 767, 518, 723 confirmed cases and 6,947,192 deaths globally.

This is why the duo agreed that Risk Management and Communication to mitigate against the Corona virus were vital at an early stage before the pandemic escalated into a global crisis.

Responding to question-and-answer sessions, the duo said that in Africa, a total of 1137.4 million vaccine doses were received, but only 1084.5 million vaccines were administered.

Prof. Obiero said vaccine apartheid and politics around COVID-19 vaccines greatly frustrated the fight against the pandemic. Whereas some commercialized it, others simply sidelined the African continent.

There are several types of vaccines; protein-based, viral-based, Ribonucleic Acid (RNA), and Deoxyribo-Nucleic acid (DNA), which is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. RNA forms part of the DNA of a human being.

By Joseph Ouma

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