When COVID-19 vaccines first started to be rolled out in Kenya, 65-year-old Violet Nakwaka, a resident of Nyalenda Slum, Kisumu, could not wait to get herself vaccinated. She quickly made arrangements and received her first dose of the jab in June 2021.
"I went for the jab because I belong to the group which is considered vulnerable to the virus as a result of my age. I also suffer from high blood pressure which may compromise my immunity should I get infected," she explains.
A ramping up of supplies from COVAX has helped, with 3.9 million doses now delivered to the country.
She says that before she was vaccinated, she was scared of interacting with people and always stayed indoors, only leaving the house when she had important errands to run.
"I am now glad that in case I contract the virus, it will probably not have much effect on me,” she says, adding that she still abides by the COVID-19 safety measures: wearing a face mask, social distancing and keeping away from crowded places.
“It is time people stopped shying away from the vaccine. It works just like the polio and measles vaccines we received during childhood,” she says.
Initially there was low vaccination turnout in the county due to misinformation and the unavailability of the vaccine in most hospitals. It was also costly for people to travel. Some residents needed to journey to Ahero hospital, which cost 200 Kenyan shillings (US$ 2), to get vaccinated. Considering many had lost their homes during the floods earlier this year and were living in camps, dependent on the goodwill of others, this cost was prohibitive.
The area sub-chief, Mr Jacob Ong'udi did, however, confirm that thanks to the efforts of the county government currently an eighth of the total population has been vaccinated.
"The county, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, had the vaccine brought to the neighbouring school where a number of residents and I were vaccinated," he says.
He further adds that a number of residents are also eager to have the vaccine and are currently waiting for outreach efforts to have the jab brought closer to them.
According to the County Health Director Mr Frederick Oluoch, there has been increased demand for the vaccine, which has been made available in 34 centres within the county. A ramping up of supplies from COVAX has helped, with 3.9 million doses now delivered to the country.
"We are also doing regular outreach in the villages and slums to have those who cannot visit the health centres vaccinated," he adds.