An aggressive vaccination drive is underway in five counties placed on lockdown more than a month ago to curb the spread of coronavirus, according to the latest official data.
Nairobi, Nakuru and Kiambu, which fall in the disease-infected zone – to and from which movement was restricted – are leading in the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Together with Machakos and Kajiado, the other two regions in the locked-down zone, the five counties have inoculated 388, 472 people, accounting for 47 per cent of the nationwide vaccine uptake.
By April 23, some 822,651 people had been vaccinated nationwide, according to the Ministry of Health.
The top five counties – Nairobi, Nakuru, Kiambu, Uasin Gishu and Nyeri – account for more than half of those vaccinated across the country.
Collectively, the top five counties have vaccinated 423,731, which translates to 51 per cent of the nationwide tally.
In Nairobi, 254,722 have received the vaccine, Nakuru (53,180), Kiambu (44,693), Uasin Gishu (39,885) and Nyeri (31,251).
Between April 1 and 23, Meru and Kakamega counties stepped up vaccinations to edge out Mombasa and Laikipia from the top 10 chart. Murang’a, Kisumu and Mombasa are among the top 10.
Kajiado, where 19,699 have been vaccinated, and Machakos (16, 178), are ranked 11th and 14th out of 47 devolved units.
Counties with the least vaccinations are Garissa (1,978), Isiolo (1,438), Tana River (732), Lamu (592) and Marsabit (592).
And although health workers, security officers and teachers were given priority due to the risks they face in their line of duty, they seem to have shunned the vaccine.
Collectively, these occupational groups only account for 42 per cent of total vaccinations.
A majority of those vaccinated (475,183 or 58 per cent) comprise mostly Kenyans aged 58 years and above.
As for security officers, only 68,677 or eight per cent have received the jab, followed by teachers (126,322 or 15 per cent) and health workers (152,469 or 19 per cent).
Experts have raised concern over the extremely low number of teachers vaccinated against Covid-19, three weeks before schools reopen.
All teachers are eligible for the jab and are expected to have received the first dose before schools reopen on May 10 because of their constant interaction with learners.
However, the number of Kenyans vaccinated is still shy of the one million mark, more than 50 days since the Covid-19 vaccination campaign started.
Although the programme has been gathering pace, only 840,075 (as of April 27) had got the vaccine, which means an average of 17,000 people have been getting the shots each day, against a 50,000 daily target.
About 253,383 doses are remaining, out of which only 40,000 are in the central vaccine store.
These doses, health officials have said, could run out in 10 to 14 days, at the current high rate of uptake mainly by the elderly.
Even so, data from Africa CDC vaccination dashboard indicates the population is still not fully vaccinated.
To be considered fully vaccinated, a person needs to take two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been widely deployed in the country. A majority of those who have received the first dose (referred to as the prime dose) will get their second jab in June, after the Ministry of Health extended the time interval between the first and second dose from eight to 12 weeks.
One dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been shown to provide sustained protection against Covid for at least three months and to cut transmission of the virus by two-thirds.
According to an analysis of fresh data from three trials published in the Lancet in February, the first shot conferred on average 76 per cent protection against symptomatic infections from three weeks until 90 days, and reduced transmission of the disease by 67 per cent.
Researchers who carried out clinical trials in the UK, Brazil and South Africa in December noted that delaying the second shot for at least three months boosted protection to an average of 82 per cent.
Kenyan men continue to be more enthusiastic about the vaccine.
Internationally, however, more women are getting the vaccine, with data showing higher mortality among men.
The reasons for the country’s gender gap are yet to be established, though some experts have attributed the trend to the professions in the first priority group.
“One of the things that come to mind is the composition of the target population in Kenya. Although the health-worker category has women as the majority, the other groups – security forces and people with underlying conditions – are likely to have more men,” noted Dr Moses Masika, a virologist at the University of Nairobi.
A policy brief on vaccine acceptability in the country found that more men (77 per cent) were likely to accept the vaccine than women (66 per cent).
According to Ms Christina Lenjou, a psychologist and mental health expert, one of the things that could inform this shift is fear of infection among men, who have been shown to be more vulnerable to the virus.
Globally, Covid-19 deaths have been about 2.4 times higher among men. In Kenya, men are twice more likely to get infected and die than women.
“Men also tend to be courageous and, therefore, are not afraid of the side effects of the vaccine, compared to women, who are more inquisitive,” said Ms Lenjou.
She also argues men are also more likely to interact with many people and in doing so, are at high risk of contracting the virus.
“Because they need to protect their families, they will choose to get vaccinated,” added Ms Lenjou.
Of the entire population vaccinated, 460,059 are male and 362,114 female. Another 401 are intersex and 77 transgender persons.
Kenya recognised intersex persons for the first time in its latest census released in 2019, which showed they were about 1,524.
Kenya is still vaccinating almost less than half the number of people it initially intended to vaccinate, six days to two months since the exercise began on March 8.
By April 23, some 1,080,000 doses had been dispatched to the nine regional depots.
Nairobi region received 393,000 doses, Eldoret (129,000), Nakuru (117,000), Kisumu (108,000), Nyeri (84,000), Kakamega (81,000), Mombasa (66,000), Meru (39,000), Garissa/ Mandera (25,000), Kenya Defence Forces, Kahawa (32,000) and State House (6000).