Relieved and hopeful: Reflections after my first COVAX vaccine

In March, Mukami received her first COVAX vaccine dose. As a woman in her 60s living in Kenya, she has priority access to COVAX vaccines, alongside other high-risk groups like health care workers and people with underlying diseases. Here she shares what it means for her, her community and the world.

Mukami M.


How did you hear about Kenya’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign?

Even though I’m retired, I like to stay informed of current events. The media in Kenya has covered the pandemic extensively and COVID-19 vaccines are a critical part of the country’s recovery plan. As soon as the first COVAX doses landed, there were several news stories about how many had been shipped and who would be eligible to receive them.

Another valued source of information about COVID-19 vaccines is my daughter. She works at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and she has kept me updated about the progress on COVAX.

Did your connection to COVAX give you confidence about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

Actually, my conviction is much closer to home. I’ve lost family members and friends to this awful virus. Knowing that the vaccine protects against severe disease, hospitalisation and death was enough to encourage me to get it as soon as it was available. Also, I recently tested positive for COVID, and even though my symptoms were mild, I knew the best way to avoid getting sick in the future was to get vaccinated.

What would you say to someone who still has reservations about the COVID-19 vaccine?

I try not to be judgmental. If someone is cynical or hesitant about receiving the vaccine, there’s probably a reason for that concern. Also, social media platforms like WhatsApp have made it easy for false rumours and conspiracy theories to spread.

I always try to interact with people with respect. I hear their views and then point them to sources, like the Gavi website, where they can find credible information.

A few friends have also told me that seeing the President and other government officials get vaccinated gave them assurance that the vaccines are safe.

What has the arrival of COVAX vaccines meant for Kenyans?

I can’t imagine what our lives would be like if we had to wait even one more year for the COVID-19 vaccine. As it stands, the country is experiencing a vicious third wave. Cases have spiked, our health facilities are full, our health workers are overwhelmed and the newspaper obituary pages are filled with announcements of people who have succumbed to COVID. To bring the situation under control and give our health system space to recover, the government has announced a partial lockdown in five of the most affected counties.

While I understand these steps are necessary to manage the spread of the disease, it also breaks my heart, because I know that families are suffering. Unlike most wealthy countries, Kenya doesn’t have the resources to offer people a safety net if they lose their job or business, so economic restrictions drive people further and further into poverty.

Our best hope is for as many people to be vaccinated as possible so that we can curb the spread of the disease and safely reopen our economy. COVAX is helping make this a reality.

Speaking of hope, what is your hope for the future?

This pandemic has taken so much from the world: our loved ones, our livelihoods, our health, our human interactions and connections. We need to do everything we can to bring it to an end.

I’m grateful to all the people who work on and support COVAX, because their contributions mean that countries like Kenya have access to the vaccines needed to beat COVID-19.

I hope we all learn how much is possible when we come together for an important cause and that we continue to lift each other up through tough times.

And of course, I’m optimistic that one day soon I’ll be able to hug my kids knowing that we are safe and healthy.