Catholic Church distances itself from doctors’ stand on Covid vaccine

Bishop Philip Anyolo

Archbishop Philip Arnold Subira Anyolo.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Catholic Church in Kenya has disowned recent calls by Catholic doctors who had urged people to refrain from taking the Covid-19 vaccine after terming it as ‘unnecessary’.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) urged faithful who are willing to accept the vaccine to go ahead and take it.

"We the Catholic bishops in Kenya make it clear that the recent statement from Kenya Catholic Doctors Association (KCDA) was made by the doctors in their own capacity and not on behalf of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. It must be understand that those doctors cannot and should not purport to speak in the name of the Catholic Church," said Bishop Philip Anyolo in a statement.

He added that those who wish to decline vaccination must avoid becoming vehicles for transmission of the virus by adhering to containment measures.

Informed consent

"We note that vaccination is not as a rule, an obligation, and therefore it can only be done on voluntary basis and at the discretion of an individual after giving informed consent. We therefore appeal to the consciences of Kenyans to accept the Covid-19 vaccines in light of the assurance given by the Ministry of Health," he said.

Doctors who profess the Catholic faith had objected to the ongoing vaccination exercise and called on faith-based organisations to stop the process. They argued that the only proven means of controlling the spread of Covid-19 was wearing a facemask, screening of all symptomatic patients, treatment of those who have the virus and ensuring all patients with Covid-19 are observed for 10 to 14 days.

The doctors, led by Dr Stephen Karanja, had appealed to Kenyans not to take the vaccine, adding that it should not be distributed in the first place.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that Covid-19 vaccines are an additional critical tool of protection and that the regulatory and scientific reviews of the drugs have not been compromised.

While urging Kenyans to take the vaccine, the WHO said that it is safe as a recommended and effective tool against the virus.

“We appeal to the Kenyans that will receive this vaccine as part of the priority group to accept the vaccine as a recommended and effective tool against the virus,” said the WHO.

One million doses

Over one million Covid-19 vaccine doses arrived in Nairobi last week, via the Covax facility, marking the start of Kenya’s vaccination campaign. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine landed in the country from the Serum Institute of India.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) said it has developed a deployment plan that will see healthcare workers and other essential workers, including security personnel, being given the vaccine first.

The first consignment of 1.02 million doses is part of an initial allocation to Kenya of 3.56 million doses.

In addition, Unicef is providing 1,025,000 syringes and 10,250 safety boxes to Kenya, via a global stockpile funded and supported by Gavi.