Pneumococcal Vaccine: A Valentine to Kenyan Children

February 14, 2012
by Jackson Ndegwa, Vaccine Advocacy Officer - KANCO

February 14th does not only mark a day of love, but more importantly, an exciting day in child health for Kenya. On the one year anniversary of the life-saving pneumococcal vaccine introduction in Kenya, KANCO hosted a breakfast commemorating the progress made to date and addressing the challenges left to be faced.

The breakfast hosted over 33 people in attendance including representative from the Division of Vaccines and Immunizations, the private sector, civil society and the media. Unfortunately, the government was not prepared to announce statistics about the uptake, but the impact of the vaccine has been felt in Kenya.

Joined by a mother who lost a child to pneumonia just months before the vaccine was rolled out in Kenya, Allan Ragi, executive director of KANCO and a representative of Catholic Relief Services who is the Grants Manager –GAVI CSO Constituency in Kenya, gave remarks on the tremendous progress and significant challenges facing Kenya’s immunization program.

As Kenyan civil society, we felt it important to acknowledge and thank those who were involved in financing, securing and delivering the vaccine – donors who helped to finance the Advance Market Commitment, GAVI, the Kenyan government and health providers.  Because of them, the vaccine is free for all Kenyan children.

But despite our celebration, there was also some concern. Without addressing key system-wide barriers to delivering the vaccine in remote areas to all Kenyan children, it will be hard for the pneumococcal vaccine to make a real impact on pneumonia deaths. Furthermore, it is concerning if the government does not address these barriers given their plan to launch the diarrhea (rotavirus) vaccine at the end of the year or in early 2013. Finally, civil society, the government and communities need to work together to address vaccine hesitancy among some faith communities and areas with poor uptake.

Valentine’s Day is a special day in Kenya – especially now that we can show our children how much we love them by ensuring they are protected against the leading causes of death among children.

See some of our media coverage from our commemoration event!

The Star

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