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Vaccine apathy: Why people are afraid of taking Covid-19 vaccines

Vaccination against Covid-19 is currently the best way to fight the SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease. However, many people have shied away from taking the vaccine. Data from the Ministry of Health show that towards late December 2021, only about 9.7 million doses of vaccines had been administered. Out of this vaccinated number, only about 4 million Kenyans were fully vaccinated. The proportion of adults fully vaccinated stood at 14.8 per cent. Although the low numbers have been partially attributed to the low number of vaccines, vaccine apathy has been the biggest driver of low turnouts for vaccinations.

Vaccine apathy has not been unique to Kenya. According to a vaccination report from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Georgetown University Law School and City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Healthy Policy, nearly a third of people from countries that have been hit hardest by Covid-19 have experienced difficulties accepting to be vaccinated. “The problem of vaccine hesitancy is strongly related to a lack of trust in governments. Vaccine confidence will invariably go higher in countries where trust in governments and their handling of the pandemic is higher,” said Dr. Jeffrey V. Lazarus, the ISGlobal researcher who authored the report. The report showed that it is easier to administer the vaccine among elderly people and tougher to give it to younger people. “The next phase of fighting Covid-19 is on the diminished trust in a vaccine. We can’t hope to see the last of Covid-19 with a vaccine if we don’t start building vaccine literacy early and restore public trust in science,” said Professor Heidi J. Larson who was among the senior coordinators of the report.

What you need to know about Omicron, symptoms and its spread

One of the major areas of concerns for people against the vaccines has been the speed of vaccine development. In August 2020, Russia became the first nation in the world to register a vaccine against Covid-19. The vaccine known as Sputnik V was registered for widespread use after less than two months of human testing and clinical trials. In December 2020, US and German pharmaceutical companies announced the development of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. The United Kingdom became the first country to approve the vaccine which had been tried and tested in a large pool of clinical trials. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was approved on December 1, 2020 for emergency use on front line health care workers. This vaccine had been tested on 43,000 people. The Pfizer vaccine scored an efficacy rate of 95 per cent. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has 90 per cent in efficacy. According to the journal History of Vaccines, vaccines take between 10 and 15 years to develop. It usually goes through five stages before approval. But according to Dr. Thumbi Mwangi, a researcher and infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Nairobi and the Paul G Allen School for Global Animal Health at the Washington State University, the Covid situation was so dire that it became a concerted global effort. Subsequently, resources and modern bioinformatics technologies were deployed to get a vaccine as fast as possible. “Pfizer’s vaccine made from messenger RNA, known as mRNA, uses the latest vaccine development technology, and has the highest rate of efficacy,” he says.

At the same time, the emergence of the Omicron variant and its potential to infect fully vaccinated persons has also given unvaccinated people cause to refuse vaccination. Many are reasoning that there is no point in getting vaccinated when you could get infected anyway. However, according to Dr. Thumbi, taking the vaccine doesn’t mean one cannot get infected or reinfected. However, when attacked by the Covid virus, a vaccinated person will stand a better chance of fighting off the virus, severe disease, and hospitalization.

For Kenya to return back to normalcy, Dr. Moses Masika a virologist at the University of Nairobi says that the government should target to vaccinate as many people as possible. “The target proportion should be 80 per cent, and, or slightly lower or higher. If a large population is vaccinated, then the risk of infection will be reduced to levels that allow for the reopening of the country,” he says. He however points out that elements of vaccine hesitancy and vaccine misinformation on social media will need to be combated. “Vaccine apathy might be less because people may generally appreciate the urgent need to remedy the Covid situation. However, not everyone will be enthusiastic about it, and the government will need to share as much information on the vaccine as possible to shore up confidence,” says Dr. Masika.

To ensure that a higher number of people are vaccinated, in December 2021, the national government has been keeping vaccination centres open for longer. The Ministry of Health had set a target of 10 million vaccinations by December 31, 2021.

Takeaway tips: Steps to downloading your vaccination certificate

1. Open your favourite browser, for example, Google Chrome, and go to https//

2. Click on the “create an account” button if this is your first time. The system will ask you if you have already been vaccinated. Say “yes’” if you have.

3. If yes, you will be prompted to key in your details, after which you click on ‘Sign Up”.

4. You will now enter your national ID/passport number in the column that pops up next and your password before clicking on “log in”.

5. The system will prompt you with instructions on what to do next after which you will click on “I have read the instructions”.

6. It will take you back to the homepage/dashboard, where you will be able to see your details.

7. On the left side of the screen, you will see a “vaccination certificate’ bar. Click on it.

8. You will then see your vaccination certificate, which has a QR code that is vital in verifying that the document is original.

9. Download your certificate


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