, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 14 – The government will immunise 110,000 health workers in the next two weeks against the H1N1 virus commonly known as Swine flu.
Speaking after receiving a consignment of drugs and equipment to strengthen Swine Flu preventive programmes in the country, Public Health Minister Beth Mugo said more than 90 percent of the recipients would develop immunity against the virus.
Mrs Mugo also denied claims that the drugs had not undergone pre-trials, saying they were already in use in South Africa, China, Europe and the United States.
“A single dose of the vaccine will be injected into the left upper arm; in addition 621,000 people including pregnant women and those who might have persistent chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma will also be vaccinated,” she said.
Mrs Mugo explained that Kenya was allocated 730,000 doses of the H1N1 virus worth close to Sh470 million; syringes worth Sh278 million and safety boxes worth Sh286 million after applying for the donation from the World Health Organisation. A vehicle was also donated by the UN agency to be used in the guinea worm eradication programme.
The Public Health Minister also cautioned Kenyans against laxity as there was no guarantee that there would be no other waves of the virus in the country. She said influenza surveillance teams were currently monitoring virus evolution to look out for mutations that could potentially cause severe diseases.
“As you may be aware subsequent waves tend to be more severe. With this in mind we have to guard against adverse effects on our healthcare systems so that we are able to continue providing services as recommended by the World Health Organisation,” she said.
WHO country director David Okello asked the government to tighten its Swine flu preventive mechanisms and to ensure that the medical supplies were appropriately used. He explained that WHO had also provided about Sh8 million to help in the deployment plan of the H1N1 vaccine.
“We appeal to the government to facilitate the full implementation of H1N1 vaccination campaigns and the drug administration of other lymphatic disorders as planned. We have already shared all these plans with our head office in Geneva to ensure that this plan is fully implemented,” said Dr Okello.
Mrs Mugo added that rapid control of the virus was crucial in fighting its spread in the event an outbreak recurred. She said that the government remained wary of the swine flu virus although no new cases had been reported.
“Last year’s outbreak coincided with the onset of the regular seasonal influenza and transmission continued up to December which was slightly beyond the usual seasonal flu. The A(H1N1) became the dominant virus while other flu viruses remained dormant. But transmission tapered off in December,” she said.
The drugs consignment was donated through collaborative efforts from USAID which contributed vaccine ancillary supplies worth more than Sh286 million; UNICEF who will be supporting communication materials and the Center for Disease Control who will be monitoring vaccine uptake.
The Minister also announced that the Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunisation Board through Geneva last week granted Kenya Sh1.3 billion for the country’s normal vaccinations programmes
Dr Sheila Macharia who was representing USAID said Kenya was one of the first countries slated to get medical supplies to fight swine flu and other chronic diseases by the American government.
“We also anticipate that this is not the last of the support that will be coming through. We are likely to get further support towards surveillance,” she said.