By Mary Hearty

Unlike the COVID-19 vaccine which was marred with hesitancy across Kenya, the cholera vaccine is receiving a positive response with numbers of recipients surpassing daily targets in affected counties like Nairobi.

According to Lilian Mutua, Head of Health Promotion in Nairobi County, most affected sub-counties like Mathare have been registering high vaccination rates.

With a daily target of 300 people, vaccination teams are recording a high of 400 to 500 people, Mutua said.

The oral cholera vaccination campaign, a first of its kind, was launched on 11th February, 2023 by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, following an outbreak that affected 14 counties across the country.

The campaign is targeting 2.2 million people and is being rolled out in Nairobi, Garissa, Wajir, and Tana river counties.

Dr Kate O’Brien (second from right) during the field visit in Huruma community

“It is nice to see the community very receptive to the vaccine. Most people in the community were quite aware of the cholera outbreak and that the vaccine was available, and understood the importance of getting it to protect themselves,” said Dr. Kate O’Brien, Director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, WHO during her field visit on the fourth day of the campaign in Mathare sub-county.

Though the initiative is commendable, she noted that vaccine alone cannot protect their health as hygiene, sanitation, and clean water are the primary interventions that prevent cholera outbreaks.

“What’s really important is that solving cholera is not about vaccination, solving cholera is about all of the other things that are meant to prevent it from circulating including drinking clean water, sanitation, ensuring there is safe water supply,” she explained.

Emphasizing the importance of the primary interventions, Dr. O’Brien noted that there is a current global vaccine shortage as other countries like Ethiopia and Malawi are also facing an outbreak.

“There are not enough vaccines for everybody and a lot of work is going on with the manufacturers to ensure that they can increase the number of doses that they are making so that they can be more available to the countries,” she stated.