Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease, but its adverse effects can be countered by a polio vaccine. According to Kenya Expanded Programme on Immunisation (KEPI), the polio vaccine can be administered through the mouth in three doses and an injection. The oral polio vaccine is given at birth and at six and ten weeks while the injectable vaccine at fourteen weeks.
As the government prepares for a four-day polio vaccination campaign targeting 2.6 million children under the age of five in ten counties across the country, it might fail to hit its target due to a shortage in the polio vaccine that has entered its second month.
Some private hospitals in the country have taken a quick ride on the shortage and are now providing baby friendly vaccines which address pain and the general discomfort children experience whenever they are vaccinated at an added cost. These hospitals usually stock government issued vaccines and baby-friendly versions of the dose.
“I took my son to the hospital and he received all the other vaccines except polio. The doctor gave me the option going with him unvaccinated or paying Ksh8,000 ($80) for the injection,” a victimized parent said.
The shortages have been experienced since March, compelling doctors to exhaust all the doses in stock. Due to the shortage, only Level Five hospitals are getting the vaccines, a terrible situation exposing the lives of millions of children to life-threatening conditions or even death.
“We receive very few doses whenever we place orders. Last week, for example, we dispatched a small package of 400 doses of the oral polio vaccine to two sub-counties in Makueni. These doses cannot last a week,” said a senior nurse at one of the sub-counties’ divisions of vaccines and immunization.
Although the Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said there is enough supply of the vaccines in Kenya to last for two months, the Health workers say whenever they make inquiries about the vaccine, the store managers barely respond.
“It is our duty to protect these children. It breaks my heart every time I turn away a mother without administering the vaccine to her child,” a nurse said.