Why you must be over 18 to get Covid-19 vaccine

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

A health worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine against the novel coronavirus at the vaccination center in Freising, southern Germany, on February 2, 2021. 

Photo credit: Christof Stache | AFP

What you need to know:

On Sunday, Rwanda became the first East African country to roll out vaccination, with the limited 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine administered to high-risk groups.

By now you have probably heard that you must be above 18 years to get a Covid-19 shot.

In fact, the latest interim guidelines by the World Health Organization (WHO), for use of the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine, state that it can only be given to persons aged over 18, including those above 65 years of age.

The guidelines follow a trend in vaccines, including those made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, have been approved for emergency use in adult populations.

On Sunday, Rwanda became the first East African country to roll out vaccination, with the limited 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine administered to high-risk groups, including frontline workers. Zimbabwe Monday received the first batch of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine.

Here we answer a few questions for you:

I am 17 years old and living with a comorbidity. Do I qualify for the vaccine?

No. The reason for this is that there is no data to show how any of the available vaccines (AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Sputnik V, Johnson & Johnson or Novavax) behave in the younger population.

AstraZeneca has just announced a new trial to test how well the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine works in children. It is set to enroll 300 volunteers, with the first vaccinations in the trial taking place in the UK late in February.

Researchers will assess whether the jab produces a strong immune response in children aged between six and 17, by giving the vaccine to about 240 children - and the others a control meningitis jab - when the trial gets under way, the BBC reported.

When will I get the vaccine?

As an average Kenyan without any underlying condition, chances are you might get your shot in 2023 as the Ministry of Health prioritises about 16 million people for at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, with the programme scheduled to start by end of February or early March.

One vaccine - developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca - has been highly considered for use to protect people against serious illness and death from Covid-19.

According to Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax), Kenya is set to receive 4.2 million doses (4,176,000 doses to be exact). It’s not yet clear which other vaccines the government intends to deploy, though its officials have said the country will use a hybrid system of vaccination.

Two weeks ago, China's state-owned pharmaceutical Sinopharm officially declared interest in supplying Kenya with a vaccine.

Acting Director-General of Health Services, Dr Patrick Amoth, has, on several occasions, said the country is looking at all manufacturers but beyond this statement, nothing has been made public.

Oxford vaccine trials in SA

Some of the first South African Oxford vaccine trialists wait ahead the clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, on June 24, 2020.

Photo credit: Siphiwe Sibeko | Pool | AFP

What is this Covax facility?

Co-led by Gavi, Covax is an initiative first envisaged as a single clearing house for the world’s vaccine orders, from which all countries, rich and poor, would procure their doses.

But almost immediately, rich and middle-income nations pursued their own bilateral deals as nationalism trumped multilateralism.

On February 10, the global initiative aimed at equitable access to the highly sought after vaccines, released a distribution forecast for all countries that subscribed to get doses through it.

The facility has signed deals with two manufacturers - Serum Institute of  India (SII) and SK bioscience, South Korea. Its success is hinged on the participation of high-income countries.

The multilateral programme has two tiers - a self-financing participant and an Advance Market Commitment (AMC) participant. Wealthier countries fall in the ‘self-financing countries’ category, where they commit to procure enough doses through the facility to vaccinate 10-50 percent of their populations, making an upfront payment.

Low- and middle-income countries, 92 of which have signed up under Covax, fall under the AMC category. Kenya is one of these countries. AMC countries like Kenya are set to receive at least two-thirds of those doses through a co-financing model where they are required to chip in to buy vaccines.

Who is being vaccinated now?

Globally, vaccines are given to the most vulnerable first. A list of high-priority groups - covering up to 99 percent of those most at risk of dying - is being followed.

In Kenya, the phased vaccination will see health workers, staff working in hospitals and other essential workers vaccinated first.

Below is the government’s phased vaccination breakdown:

Phase one:

This will involve some 1.25 million frontline health workers and individuals involved in service deliveries in health facilities. People working in essential services like teachers and staff in educational institutions, police, military, prisons, and immigrations officers as well as instructors in religious institutions will also be vaccinated. This is expected to be done between quarters three and four of the 2020/2021 financial year.

Phase two:

The target is 9.76 million people above the age of 50 years and those who are above 18 years but have one or more medical conditions (comorbidity), such as cancer, diabetes, sickle cell disease, chronic lung and cardiovascular diseases.

Individuals working in the hospitality and tourism industry are also  in this category, whose inoculation will be done in the 2021/2022 financial year.

Phase three:

Some 4.9 million people working in the entertainment, restaurant, retail and banking sectors will get their shots in this last phase expected to run during the 2022/2023 financial year.

Kenyans above the age of 18, who are living in what the ministry termed congregate settings like care homes, prisons and detention centres, shelters, street families and densely populated settlements, will also receive the vaccine.

The ministry said, however, that the three phases might overlap as more vaccines become available during phases two and three.

Moderna Covid-19 vaccinations

A health worker administers a vaccine to a patient in their vehicle during the first day of mass Moderna Covid-19 vaccinations in Broadbent Arena at the Kentucky State Fair and Exposition Center on January 4, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Photo credit: Jon Cherry | Getty Images | AFP

Can I get a combination of two vaccines?

No. It’s only now that scientists in the UK are planning to conduct the very first trial of a combination of Covid-19 vaccines.

The country is seeking to find out whether two different doses offer better protection against the coronavirus.

Should there be an adverse effect from any of the vaccines, who will be liable?

According to papers leaked to Reuters, the liability for any issues experienced by the participating nations will not be covered by Covax, which is operating without financial contingency funds.

In fact, Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman, said in an interview last October that it is too early to say who should carry the liability for potential adverse effects.

He said, however, that he expected the vaccine makers to bear some of the responsibility.

The WHO and Gavi said in a joint statement to Reuters that the scheme will try to solve liability and indemnification issues “while addressing the financial obligations this may impose on AMC-eligible economies.”


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