Kenya’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate draws praise and criticism

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So far only 8.8% of people in Kenya have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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

Kagwe said the government would launch a 10-day mass vaccination campaign on Friday.

Instructions regarding vaccines have divided public opinion globally. Some politicians and citizens say the measures violate personal choice and others say they protect the public.

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

“This is not only good for business continuity and the economy but also for protecting others,” she said.

But some local business owners said the instructions were not practical.

“Who’s going to enforce this?” Franklin Odiambo, a restaurant owner in Nairobi, said. “Some of us want to be obedient, others might not. Therefore, it would create some unfair competition.”

The order comes just a month after the government lifted the curfew from March 2020.

Rights group Amnesty International said Kenya will not be able to vaccinate most of its population by the deadline, so many may be unable to earn a living, access transport or go to school.

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

“These rules would deprive millions of people from the ability to earn a livelihood, access security, health and transportation services from home to work or go to school,” he told Reuters.

“This is not how we will win the war against Covid-19,” he said, calling on the government to work hard to overcome vaccine hesitation. “It turns what the World Health Organization (WHO) would argue is a significant voluntary exercise into a coercive exercise.”

Shoe-glowing Winnie Full agreed.

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

Although lower than Western countries, Kenya’s rate of fully vaccinated citizens is higher than the African average of less than 5%. The WHO says Africa has lagged behind in COVID-19 vaccination rates because of global inequalities in the supply of vaccines, not because Africans do not want to be vaccinated.

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

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