COVID-19 VACCINATION AND GENDER

The rise of Covid-19 from Wuhan, China at the end of 2019 saw countries globally being disrupted. Kenya reported its first case on 13th March 2020 and since then, tension built up all over as basic public health safety principles were threatened. Infections were seen to spread rapidly in different counties and to curb that, Kenya has embarked on initiatives that ensure free vaccination to all its citizens, despite the many speculations revolving around the vaccines. This feature focuses on how Gender continues to impact vaccination processes in Kenya.

To date, Kenya has recorded a total of 186,453 Positive infections and 3,697 deaths, out of a sample size of 1,983,016. Due to the rapid spread of the virus and the dangers it exposes people to, the Kenyan government has issued out free vaccines to its citizens to help in containing the virus. On 5th March 2021, Kenya received its first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India.

“We’ve been fighting this virus, but we’ve been fighting it with rubber bullets. This time around, what we have received here (metaphorically speaking) is equivalent to the acquisition of machine guns, bazookas and tanks to fight this war against Covid-19.” Mutahi Kagwe, CS Health.  

However, many women continue to shy away from getting the vaccine, based on the myths being said about the vaccine and Women’s health, especially their reproductive health. Some of the concerns being raised are it interferes with one’s menstrual calendar, could cause infertility, leads to internal blood clots and others associate the Covid-19 virus with polytheism entirely. The most widespread theory was some Africans believed that Covid -19 is an invention from the West that was meant to eradicate the wider population and that whoever got the vaccine may not live long.  

“There are people who believe that the vaccine will start bringing changes to one’s body. However, I would like to dismiss these claims and term them as untrue since the vaccines have passed through many trial phases and were eventually approved by the World Health Organization as fit for human use. Getting the vaccine is important as it reduces your exposure to contracting the virus. “

Based on statistics by the Ministry of Health in Kenya, 721,070 people have been vaccinated among all 47 counties. 56% are men while 44% are women. Kenya hopes to have vaccinated over 10 Million adults by August 2021.

“By Christmas of this year, we intend to have vaccinated over 10 Million adults according to our experts and we would have built a capacity to vaccinate 150,000 per day by August 2021.” President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Tina Mwaka hails from the Kenyan Coast. She says she decided to get the vaccine as she tends to interact with many people due to the nature of her work. She sees it as a safety precaution to protect her family.

“I decided to get the vaccine after seeing the many advertisements by the Government on the need for vaccination. I do casual labour and that involves being at different places a lot. Seeing that I have kids and my parents stay at home with us, I took the initiative to get the vaccine to protect myself and them from my daily errands. I did not get any side effects as other people say. So I would say the vaccine worked well with me.”  

Sabina Mwangala is an aged woman working for the Government. She said she sought to get the vaccine due to her long term blood pressure illness. She was sceptical she would get sick, as her age makes her prone to contracting the virus easily. She too says the vaccine did not affect her, as other women would think.

“I got vaccinated because cases were rising and I saw many people die of the virus. I got vaccinated to be safe. The stories being said about the vaccine are false. People will continue suffering if they believe the myths being said about the vaccine. I was told to wait 15 minutes after being injected and managed to go to work afterwards. To date, I am still okay. I understand that my age and blood pressure makes me vulnerable and so as a precaution, I decided to get the vaccine.”

Dr Caroline Agutu, a committee member on Infectious diseases from Mombasa County, says the rumours being spread about the vaccine and its effect on Women’s health is false. Even though Covid-19 is a new disease, there is no scientific proof that links the vaccine to altering menstrual flow nor fertility in Women.

“The vaccine has undergone many research phases and The World Health Organization officially approved it as fit for humans. The vaccine could have mild effects depending on each person. Some of the commonly reported cases are mild pain in the injected area, body weakness for a few days and mild body pains for a few hours. No proven case has linked the vaccine to infertility in women.”  

The Ministry of Health encourages everyone who has been vaccinated to report the side effects the vaccine presented on them and to date, no one has reported any case of menstrual flow changes nor infertility and other infections. Any woman who is sceptical about the Vaccine is being advised to visit any certified health facility to get clear information and avoid rumours.

By Dalila Athman

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