What you need to know:
- Kenyans are interested in knowing what a delay in receiving doses, beyond the recommended 8 to 12 weeks means.
- We are further interested in knowing how responsive the Indian variant is to this vaccine, and to the medicines being used in treatment.
There have been many gaps in delivery and dispensing of the few doses of Covid-19 vaccine that have come our way. It is crucial to note that in dealing with a pandemic, the most important thing is maintenance of sanitation and distancing measures to prevent spread. Political gatherings of hundreds of people are still somehow happening, and more should be done to combat this.
The second is early diagnosis and treatment. This requires a stable health sector, including steady supply of medicines, and an able and ready workforce. The recent deaths of medical workers point to a level of pressure on them. We cannot expect health workers to go above and beyond to save the lives of others without taking care of them first.
The third is universal and timely vaccination. Because of different risk profiles, the government had to make a decision to limit access to these doses to those who are vulnerable due to work and other factors such as age. Further, without relevant information, even Kenyans in the high risk groups continue to refuse the vaccine. Dignity in this engagement requires an urgent rebuilding of trust.
Kenyans are used to being lied to by politicians who make glittering statements. After they come into office, the story changes into one of avoidance and excuses. The tone of public information must change from an inert delivery of facts, to a more empathetically intelligent and collective dialogue.
People who are afraid have legitimate reasons to be afraid, and they will make decisions and act according to fear. Acknowledging doubt as well as speaking to their different levels of conviction can go a long way in increasing vaccine uptake.
The second step towards dignity is reliable logistics. Many Kenyans have made long lines and waited for hours, ignored by harried and stressed personnel, only to be turned away. This is reminiscent of the previous lack of concern that was experienced during passport application. The passport issues were resolved by giving people appointments and time slots. A similar approach regarding the vaccine would consider everyone’s time as valuable, rather than wasting the efforts of all concerned.
The third step is an evidence-based and data driven engagement with current research as regards a few facts. Kenyans are interested in knowing what a delay in receiving doses, beyond the recommended 8 to 12 weeks means. We are further interested in knowing how responsive the Indian variant is to this vaccine, and to the medicines being used in treatment.
People want to know if the treatment modalities, and home remedies are working, beyond a litany of numbers and statistics of deaths, infections and recoveries. Our public health sector needs to start operating from a value system that prioritises our dignity, for the promise of universal healthcare to even have a chance at success.
The writer is a policy analyst. [email protected]