More than 500,000 new-born babies missed out on crucial vaccines during the recent nurses’ strike that lasted for five months, putting their lives at risk the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) has said.
Speaking during a press briefing at Travellers Beach Hotel in Mombasa, KRCS Secretary-General Abbas Gullet said the infants from across the country missed on BCG, OPV and yellow fever vaccines.
The Red Cross has now started giving the vaccines to the new-born babies in a programme dubbed 'Catch up campaign'.
Eleven counties from arid and semi-arid areas have been prioritised. These include Turkana, Moyale, Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Garissa, Tana River, Samburu, and West Pokot.
Thirty nurses have been hired to administer the jab pin every county.
"The programme has been trying to vaccinate close to half a million newly born babies in the last five months who missed the vaccine due to nurses’ strike,” Mr Gullet said.
He said several partners including Unicef and Amref have joined the vaccination initiative.
The campaign has been ongoing for a month.
"By next month we will have vaccinated all the babies and [help them] catch up with their normal vaccinations so that potential risks [they] would have gone through such as [getting] polio or measles is eradicated. These are crucial vaccines that are important to the health of a new-born baby. If they miss the jabs they risk being affected by polio [and] TB among other diseases," he said.
He said major towns such as Mombasa, Nairobi, Nakuru and Nyeri were not affected by lack of vaccines due to existence of private hospitals.
"We are targeting sparsely populated counties with very few health facilities. We are trying to catch up with those who missed the vaccines due to the challenges of the strike.
"The catch up campaign is an emergency campaign which we wouldn't have had to do it if nurses hadn't gone on strike," he said.
Mr Gullet urged the government to strengthen health systems to enable them withstand shocks.
"In the future, should there be industrial disagreements, solutions must be found quickly," he cautioned.