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Kenyans eagerly await COVID-19 jabs as vaccinations pick up in Africa

(Xinhua)    09:00, March 03, 2021

A researcher performs a task at a medical laboratory in Kilifi County, Kenya, Nov. 13, 2020. (Xinhua/Joy Nabukewa)

NAIROBI, March 2 (Xinhua) -- A cloud of hope is hanging over Kenya as the country expects its first dosage of about a million COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday night.

The vaccines, sourced from AstraZeneca, place Kenya among a few countries in Africa that have sourced vaccinations for their critical and vulnerable citizens against the disease.

Susan Mochache, principal secretary in the Ministry of Health said Monday that vaccination will begin on Thursday with health workers across the east African nation.

"We will target health workers and any other persons working at the facilities. Using the consignment we receive, we will vaccinate about 500,000 people since the vaccines are given twice," she said, adding some 4.1 million doses would be imported in May.

And as the Kenyan government laid down modalities on starting the vaccination program, expectations among citizens have soared.

Many are hopeful that the vaccines will usher in a period of normalcy in the nation.

Besides health workers, among those hoping to be first to be considered for vaccinations are public transport workers, who include drivers and their conductors, motorbike and vehicle taxi drivers as well as teachers and truck drivers as they interact with dozens of people daily.

"This is an airborne disease and as public transport workers, we are vulnerable since we interact with tens of people daily thus we can be super-spreaders. The government should consider this when rolling out the vaccines," said Peter Muturi, a conductor with Rembo Shuttle, which plies the Nairobi-Kitengela route.

"I will be among the first people to volunteer to take the vaccine once its rollout begins so that I don't put my students at risk," Moses Were, a secondary school teacher in Busia, western Kenya, said on Tuesday.

Schools were initially considered hotspots as cases rose among learners and teachers in the first wave of the disease. However, the learning institutions have not registered any surge in disease incidences since schools reopened in January. This has been attributed to students observing social distancing, masking up, and regularly washing hands.

However, even as Kenyans eagerly await the vaccines, several issues remain unclear.

Among the questions citizens are asking is what happens if they miss the second jab after getting the first one considering that there is a shortage of vaccines.

Others are wondering if the vaccine would have any side effects, if one would be able to spread the disease if they are vaccinated, and if one would be required to test for COVID-19 when traveling once they get the vaccine.

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa noted on Monday that the immunization drive in Africa is a step forward in the continent's fight against COVID-19.

"It is a welcome shift towards bringing African countries off the sidelines and back into the vaccination race, correcting the glaring inequity which has been an unfortunate hallmark of the global vaccine rollout to date," she said.

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(Web editor: Meng Bin, Liang Jun)

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