At the Sekenani clinic in rural Kenya, only one refrigerator worked. Health worker Gerald Yiaile says ensuring there is enough Covid-19 vaccine is a big challenge.
But in fact, the Covid-19 vaccine is not so lacking. In the nearest town, 112 km from the clinic, there are 14,000 doses of vaccine stored in a refrigerator. The example of a local vaccine shortage at the Sekenani clinic illustrates the challenges facing Africa, which could impact the pandemic globally.
A health worker Gerald Yiaile stands next to an empty refrigerator used to store vaccines at a clinic in Sekenani town (Narok, Kenya), December 1.
Until recently, supplies of vaccines to Africa were very low, partly because rich countries hoarded them. Only 102 million people on the continent are fully vaccinated. Low vaccination rates – just 7.5% – give the opportunity for viral mutations like the new Omicron variant to emerge.
Lack of funding, medical staff and equipment in some departments have made vaccination even more difficult. With the pace at which vaccine supply has improved, and is expected to increase in the near future, experts say such weaknesses will become more apparent.
A healthcare professional prepares a dose of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to residents in Talek town, (Narok, Kenya), December 1.
A significant amount will be the Pfizer vaccine, which requires cold chain storage. Dr Willis Akwhale, head of the government’s Covid-19 task force, said that while Kenya has the capacity to store 3 million doses of Pfizer, there are concerns the cold chain will not be able to.
Another problem is vaccine dichotomy, which may be due to religious beliefs or mistrust of Western pharmaceutical companies. Kenya has ramped up its awareness of Covid-19 vaccination through television and radio advertisements as well as on social media.