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Supporting the Rollout of the COVID-19 Vaccine in Kenya

December 08, 2021

A Ministry of Health trainer shows trainees vaccine storage methods during the COVID-19 vaccine introduction and deployment training program in March 2021. 

To combat the spread of COVID-19 in Kenya, Ciheb’s local partner, Ciheb-Kenya, received a five-year CDC-funded grant to support national and county activities towards rolling out COVID-19 vaccination. The Technical Assistance to Ready and Accelerate Capacity of public health programs in Kenya (TRACK) program is focused on supporting the development of national policies and training material on COVID-19 vaccination and teaching national trainers to cascade this training to counties.

Initially, TRACK was intended to support vaccination roll-out activities in three counties — Nairobi, Kisumu, and Siaya — but later expanded to eight to include Busia, Homa Bay, Mombasa, Migori, and Nyeri due to an additional request from the Task Force for Global Health.

A map of Kenya's counties with TRACK's focus counties highlighted

TRACK’s collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) National Vaccine and Immunization Program to build capacity for the vaccine rollout at the national level was critical as articulated by Jemima Kibira, TRACK’s Capacity Building Coordinator. Kibira elaborated on TRACK’s key activities, which include the development of a national COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan, the blueprint used in the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines in the country. Through the program, numerous resources for the vaccine rollout have been developed, such as standard operating procedures, training packages, information, education and communication materials, and replicable models for implementation.

TRACK supported COVID-19 vaccination launches in Nairobi, Kisumu, and Siaya Counties in March 2021. The launches in each county were led by county leadership as part of enhancing demand creation. Several TRACK team members, including Ciheb-Kenya CEO Dr. Emily Koech, were among the 190 people vaccinated in Kisumu during the vaccine launch.

By June 2021, Kenya was predominantly administering the AstraZeneca vaccine secured through COVAX, but has since received donations of other vaccines such as Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer. TRACK is building the capacities of the healthcare providers in the eight counties to ensure proper administration, disposal, and handling of the additional vaccines using the updated multiple vaccines deployment plan. This includes instruction on these vaccines’ attributes, storage, anticipated side effects, contraindications, and the eligible populations for the various vaccine formulations.

Members of the TRACK team meet with the Nairobi Metropolitan Service team during the COVID-19 vaccine introduction and deployment training program in March 2021.

Training Staff and Educating the Public

TRACK has played an important role in supporting the counties through trainings, taskforce meetings, health facility and county readiness assessments, and health education.

“From this training, we developed the master training of trainers (TOTs), whose mandate was to cascade the training to their counties, but also understand their role in terms of mobilizing resources for the rollout of the vaccine,” explained Kibira.

Automated Data Capture

Capturing and reporting vaccination data is key in the fight against COVID-19. TRACK supports counties with electronic data captured through the MoH Chanjo Kenya Management Information System.

“We've been providing counties with data bundles to access the Chanjo system,” Kibira said.

The MoH Chanjo-KE system has several strengths, such as its ability to provide counties with greater data access on all vaccine recipients and send automated reminders for vaccinated people to receive their second shots. It can also authenticate people to ensure those in the first phase of vaccination — namely healthcare workers, teachers, and police officers — received their shots. The system can do this, for example, by asking for a practice license number if you say you are a healthcare worker.

TRACK also supported printing of vaccination cards to support data capture during the initial phase of the vaccine rollout in March 2021. The vaccination cards were meant to serve as proof of vaccination pending the rollout of training on MoH Chanjo-KE, which allows for pre-registration and virtual access to COVID-19 vaccination records.

Dr. Christina Mwachari, TRACK program director (speaking) with members of the TRACK and Busia County teams during the Rapid Response Initiative launch in Busia County in October 2021

Increasing Vaccine Uptake and Interest

Educating people and public health messaging are also core objectives of the TRACK project. The program developed, printed, and distributed a COVID-19 fact sheet to promote public health literacy. During distribution in Kisumu County, healthcare workers often received questions about its possible side effects.  

“We can all be a bit skeptical sometimes, and it's something that we should not feel bad about,” Kibira said. “It’s just that people want to be sure about what is this they're being given.”

Despite some initial hesitancy in uptake of COVID-19 vaccine, TRACK continues to see improvement among healthcare workers.

“They now understand that they're not only vaccinators, but recipients of the vaccine themselves,” Kibira said. “They then get to vaccinate others, to be representatives for the community, and to generate demand for the vaccine.”

There are numerous counties where the County Governors have publicly had the vaccine as a way of building public confidence.

Pre- and post- test training results for healthcare providers on COVID-19 vaccine deployment

As campaigns to increase the demand for COVID-19 vaccine continue, counties will need to increase their resource allocation to support the rollout and expand this service to more facilities and sub-counties. TRACK has already made a large impact in its first year, training 2,436 master TOTs, regional TOTs, and healthcare providers and vaccinating more than 1.6 million individuals in the eight counties by November 22. TRACK will continue to support the national and county efforts, along with other partners, as it intensifies efforts to reach all Kenyans through vaccination. 

Contact

Center for International Health, Education, and Biosecurity
Institute of Human Virology

Anthony Okoth
Regional Communications Specialist

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