By Dr. Mercy Onsando
Seems the world is hanging on a balance with many unknowns in the Horizon. As the world continues to urbanize and Change, the lives of Children and women who live in resource constrained settings continue to be at risk.
In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic many life-saving Preventive and promotive health services were negatively affected as the government tried to get footing to manage the pandemic and are just currently resuming normalcy. Children who live-in urban settings face context-specific challenges which among other issues hinder them from accessing immunization services. In addition, Conflict-affected settings have led to huge number of children being unvaccinated while there continues to be challenges in reaching remote rural populations.
As if the Kenyan Government hasn’t had enough of the challenges and trials in provision of immunization services, GAVI is preparing to exit fully from Kenya in 2027 leaving the financial burden for purchase of basic and new vaccines to an already resources constrained heavily in debt country.
The complexity on immunization financing increases as the shift from vaccination of infants to vaccinations across the course of life, including women, children and adolescent, is stretching the capacities of immunization programme in Kenya. Kenya moved into the so-called ‘middle-income’ category, which has implications on eligibility for external aid, and, for many of these situations, increased income does not automatically translate into adequate capacity to manage immunization programmes.
It is now evident that “one shoe fits all” approach will not guarantee sustainable immunization financing. COVID-19 pandemic has cemented the importance of Multi-stakeholder engagement, which includes engagement with sectors beyond health and with non-traditional partners such as private sector partners. The current world economic growth is leading to shifting patterns of wealth and deprivation among countries and withing countries.
However, even in the current difficult financial and social economic times the Government of Kenya needs to increase domestic financing for immunization at the national level and the County Levels. At county levels, approaches to achieve immunization coverage must better address these varied financing dynamics.
Immunization Financing strategies need to be tailored to reach unvaccinated children, including those in remote areas, those in rural communities with inadequate sresources; those affected by conflict and insecurity with limited access to services, those residing in urban slums, who may be disenfranchised and suffer from ‘social distance’ from services rather than geographical distance.
The policy and decision makers need to develop laws and policies that address adequate immunization financing in Kenya. To do this we must address complacency within immunization programmes. It is normally assumed that Kenya’s immunization department is doing well having reached coverage levels higher than most other health interventions.
This leads to a tendency to take immunization programmes for granted all along assuming that they are adequately funded. It is the duty of everyone to ensure Immunization programmes are continually nurtured and remain as a strong service delivery platform for Primary Health Care which is the foundation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Dr. Onsando is Chief Executive Officer of the Health NGOs Network (HENNET)