Kenya: Covid-19 vaccine mandate sparks praise, criticism

So far, only 8.8% of people are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in Kenya.

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe made the announcement on Sunday. Public services affected include schools, transportation services, immigration and other state offices, as well as hotels, bars, restaurants, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

The government will launch a 10-day mass vaccination campaign on Friday, Kagwe said.

The vaccine guidelines have divided public opinion around the world. Some politicians and citizens say the measures undermine personal choice and others say they protect the public.

Carol Kariuki, chief executive of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), which claims more than half a million members, told Reuters the group is encouraging all Kenyans to get vaccinated.

“It’s not only good for business continuity and the economy, but also for protecting others,” she said.

But some local business owners said the guideline was impractical.

“Who is going to implement it? Said Franklin Odhiambo, owner of a restaurant in Nairobi. “Some of us may want to be compliant, some may not. So that will create unfair competition.”

The edict comes just one month after the government lifted the curfew in place since March 2020.

Human rights group Amnesty International said Kenya would not be able to immunize the majority of its population by the deadline, so many people might not be able to win their lives, to access transport or to go to school.

Irungu Houghton, executive director of Amnesty International’s Kenya office, said the government’s directive was unrealistic and flawed.

“These regulations will deprive millions of people of their ability to earn a living, to have access to safety, health and transport services to and from home to work or school,” he said. he told Reuters.

“This is not how we will win the war against Covid-19,” he said, calling on the government to step up efforts to tackle vaccine hesitation. “It turns what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers to be an important voluntary exercise into a coercive exercise.”

Shoe shiner Winnie Buong agreed.

“They should have carried out a more aggressive vaccination campaign before lifting the lockdown,” Buong said. “I don’t understand why they want to make our life more difficult.”

Although low compared to Western countries, the rate of fully immunized citizens in Kenya is above the African average by less than 5%. WHO says Africa is lagging behind in Covid-19 vaccination rates because of global inequalities in vaccine supply, not because Africans do not want to be vaccinated.

Kenya has reported around 255,000 coronavirus infections and 5,300 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a Reuters tracker.

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