The commission, part of the larger Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, is mandated to provide leadership on emerging health challenges to the Catholic Church, among other roles.
This commission has been called upon in national immunisation campaigns following their concerns and fears over the safety of vaccines, their frequency and the target population (children under five and women of reproductive age) in the previous years.
A team from the Catholic Church will this week meet representatives from the Ministry of Health to discuss the upcoming polio vaccination campaign targeting 2.9 million children in 15 counties, the Nation has exclusively learnt.
The move is intended to ensure that all vaccines given to children are “safe and of good quality”, a representative of the Catholic Health Commission of Kenya said.
The Catholic Church, a key stakeholder in health matters, asked parents of children under five years and women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years) to boycott the polio and tetanus vaccine in 2015.
The National Executive Secretary at the Catholic Health Commission of Kenya Jacinta Mutegi confirmed that the ministry was in contact with them over the new vaccination drive set to begin from January 18 to 22, 2017.
She told the Nation: “We know they are planning to have the meeting, maybe on Monday (January 16) or before the campaign commences. We will update you once it is done”.
This five-day polio oral vaccine will be launched at the Isiolo County Referral Hospital on Wednesday this week. The vaccine is free and will be given door to door, in health facilities and in transit points such as bus stations among others.
Director of Medical Services Jack Kioko on Thursday said the polio vaccines are “tested, safe and effective” and, as such, the ministry was keen to ensure polio does not affect children.
He said: “That is why we have set out protective measures along the Kenyan borders to reduce polio transmission from neighbouring countries”.
This vaccination campaign was initially scheduled for between December 10 and December 14, last year but failed to take off as nurses, who help administer the vaccines, were on strike. According to the Ministry of Health, there was also the question of lack of enough resources for the campaign.
The campaign follows a polio risk analysis, conducted every three months by the Ministry of Health, which identified Nairobi, Lamu, Tana River, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu, Turkana, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Bungoma and Busia as “high risk counties”.
Head of Disease Surveillance at the Ministry of Health Daniel Langat said the vaccination has been prompted by a polio outbreak within the African region – mainly in Nigeria in August last year – which he says potentially exposes Kenya to a possible outbreak.
“Our analysis looked at the performance of routine immunisation in counties, as well as the proximity of certain counties to areas with importation of previous polio cases such as in North Eastern. Further, we looked at the movement of population and that is why a place like Nairobi is on the list,” Dr Langat said.
These vaccines were procured through Unicef and arrived in Kenya in December, 2016.
Dr Sammy Mahugu, Head of the Health Promotion Unit, told the Nation on the phone that his department has “set aside Sh70 million to carry out communication, advocacy and mobilisation in this polio campaign”.
Kenya spends about Sh4 billion annually to deliver immunisation services across 47 counties. Polio, the highly viral infectious disease with no cure, invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis.
The polio virus is transmitted from an infected person to the next through contaminated water or food with faecal matter from the infected person. It then multiplies in the intestine and causes symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting and stiffness of the neck.
Currently, children who are 14 months old can get an injectable polio vaccine which is an additional dose to the oral vaccine currently administered.