Kenya will bury all Covid-19 vaccine waste materials, here is why

California Covid vaccination

People without appointments wait in line for the potential chance to receive a Covid-19 vaccination that would have otherwise been discarded at the Kedren Community Health Center on January 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Photo credit: Patrick T. Fallon | AFP

What you need to know:

  • The Covid-19 vaccine taskforce says vaccine waste materials will be managed through the Injection Safety and Medical Waste Policy, which has been adapted to the pandemic context.

Kenya has procured auto-disable syringes as a measure for infection prevention, and adequate safety boxes for proper storage and disposal of used syringes, as it prepares to administer Covid-19 vaccines.

The government has assured that extra precautions will be taken in the management of waste related to vaccination.

The Covid-19 vaccine taskforce says vaccine waste materials will be managed through the Injection Safety and Medical Waste Policy, which has been adapted to the pandemic context.

"Our plan is very elaborate - safety boxes for disposal of sharps, followed by incineration and deep burial, will be used to dispose of used injection equipment  including the tiny vaccine jars during the inoculation process, " a member of the taskforce, who sought anonymity, told the Nation..

This means there won't be any recycling whatsoever.

According to the Rockefeller Foundation, consistent and sustainable waste disposal is a pre-existing challenge particularly among large slums in and around large cities such as Nairobi.

The foundation argues that incineration poses a challenge in the Kenyan context as it is 15 times more expensive than disposal and recycling.

For example, formal retail locations and chains may be able to directly send their waste for incineration but it is unlikely that informal retailers operating street stalls have the means to do so.

As a better option, small and informal retailers store protective and disinfecting waste for 72 hours then take it to a local market, where it can be collected for incineration.

Vaccination plan

As per the vaccine deployment plan, the waste management plan that the Ministry of Health has adopted is in line with the national healthcare waste management plan.

It will include identification of waste disposal sites and personnel to manage it, estimation of the number of safety boxes needed, bundling of waste disposal boxes with vaccines and syringes during delivery and at the disposal sites, and procedures for the disposal of all waste generated, irrespective of the vaccination site.

Special attention will be paid to ensure waste management in schools and other outreach sites is done properly. There are also plans for transportation and disposal of the waste from outreach posts.

The ministry, which has been training 400 people from all the counties, included waste management in its training material and documentation in efforts to fully equip the trainees.

"Monitoring and evaluation of waste management will be done at a high standard to ensure the safety of vaccinating health workers and caregivers, "Dr Willis Akhwale, the chair of Kenya's vaccine task force told the Nation on Tuesday.

According to the country's immunisation and vaccines deployment plan as seen by the Nation, a number of measures will be taken to ensure efficiency and sufficient protection of all parties.

Each vaccination site will be supplied with hand sanitisers to be used by caregivers and other team members. There will also be  soap for washing hands at fixed vaccinating sites, surgical face masks (one for each member per day), as well as crowd control to ensure physical distancing.

The vaccination will be done in open spaces and at designated areas away from maternal and child health clinics.

The ministry has also assured clear communication about health workers, community volunteers and leaders who will be present at vaccination sites, dates of visits.

Communities will also be educated on the basic safety measures such as wearing masks and keeping hands clean.

However, the ministry says nobody will be turned away for lacking a mask.

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