Dear Bwana Waziri, I was quite heartened last week to learn that Kenya is planning to build a vaccination plant by 2024. Indeed, Africa should not be in perpetual dependence on foreign countries to supply it with life-saving vaccines. I also applaud the fact that your team remains focused on vaccinating 26 million Kenyans by the end of 2022. You deserve our support because this vaccination is a firewall against COVID-19 and will hasten our economic and social restoration.
Helmut Schmidt a former Chancellor of German, once said that, ‘the biggest room in the world is the one for improvement.’ Allow me to share with you some brotherly room for improvement in our fight against COVID.
A week ago, I used Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to facilitate my travel. Distressingly, there was a larger crowd at the airport’s check in area than at Marikiti market. Five flights were departing at about the same time. Each flight with over 200 passengers, realistically social distancing was absolutely impossible. That was largely because two airport terminals, 1C & 1B are currently closed down for renovations by the Kenya Airports Authorities. This repair could have been done in a staggered fashion or logistics be prearranged to allow flights to leave at different times. You may agree with me that such crowding whether at the Marikiti market, International Airport or Political rallies must stop forthwith.
Bwana Waziri, you may not be aware that Kenya is one of only about four destinations World over that airline crew are still required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear. Most other global destinations have dropped this uncomfortable and somehow inefficient requirement. If this strict health standard could also be extended to passengers, I would have no problem with it. It was however quite telling to see airline crew clad in PPE attending to passengers who they had just been forced to overcrowd with. You may agree with me that such selective application of covid protocols may undermine the fight against COVID.
At about this time that I was travelling, a friend’s daughter was travelling to Uganda. She underwent Covid tests in Kenya and Uganda and received conflicting results and mind-boggling commands. Hundreds of travelers in the East Africa Community are going through similar confusion and distress. I suggest that you consider employing a harmonized Covid-19 protocol for the region.
Unknown to you my brother, our Ministry of Health online Covid update application is experiencing intermittent update delays leading to multiple travelers missing their flights from various airports. Painfully the International community is now joking about our inefficient app. Passengers are therefore being directed to use alternative WHO online platforms. I personally experienced this in the presence of a senior Government officer.
Bwana Waziri, to deal with the issues of vaccine hesitancy I suggest that you sensibly rope in ordinary people, religious leaders, youth leaders, political leaders and opinion leaders of all stripes. This way, people who might not listen to political leaders will end up listening to their neighbors or to religious and societal leaders.
Reasonably, the vaccine hesitancy discomfort we are currently experiencing is not unique to Kenya even with less than 5% of Kenyans vaccinated. A few months ago in June, the Morning Consul poll revealed that, three out of ten Americans were either unwilling or uncertain about getting the Covid-19 vaccine. This number is even higher in Russia where, vaccine hesitancy plagues half of the population. It is clear Bwana Waziri that Governments across the world will have to work harder to convince huge chunks of their population to get the COVID vaccine. Energize your team to work even harder.
Lastly, sir, you may agree with me that it is in the interest of your ministry of health just like it is for my friend Hon Tobiko’s ministry of Environment and all Kenyans alike to ensure a green and clean environment towards Sustainable Development Goals. The solid waste coming from PPEs is becoming unmanageable. Can you please strategize to allocate budget and practically clean up as we all think and act green?