Immunization advocates call for reforms in vaccine supply chain to bolster Universal Health Coverage

December 2, 2019

Kenya is among the countries planning for a national roll-out of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) scheme by the year 2022. With the pilot in the counties of Isiolo, Kisumu, Nyeri and Machakos coming to an end in December 2019, immunization advocates have pointed to gaps in the UHC plans as access remains a challenge for many.

Speaking at a stakeholder’s meeting organized by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with Kenya Paediatric Research Consortium (KEPRECON) on October 14 at Silver Springs Hotel in Nairobi, the advocates, who included medical experts, claimed that vaccine supply chain was fragmented and one of the reasons hampering immunization services in the country, an issue which will have a negative impact on UHC if left unresolved.

The objective of the meeting was to discuss the subnational distribution strategy of immunization products and to help in seeking solutions for effective delivery of immunization services at that level. “Immunization is the only intervention that brings the majority of households into contact with the health system more regularly during the first year of a child’s life. This of course offers a unique opportunity to reach communities with additional primary health care services, so we must ensure vaccines get to all the health facilities without any delays or interruption” said Dr. Fred Were, Chief Executive Officer, KEPRECON.

Currently, vaccines are distributed through a supply chain comprised of central, regional and sub-county vaccine stores. The distribution from the Central to the Regional Vaccine Stores (RVS) is done on a quarterly basis with funding from the national government. Sub-county stores are required to pick up stocks on a quarterly basis at the RVS with funding from counties, while health facilities are required to pick up stocks from sub-county stores on a monthly basis with funding from the counties.

Dr. Were said he had led a team to conduct a baseline survey in Moiben and Kapsaret in Uasin Gishu County, and planned to make further visits to Kilifi, Narok, Bungoma and Siaya counties in order to examine the situation and provide an official report on the same.

The participants unanimously proposed that procurement and supplies should be restored to the national government to benefit from economies of scale, Counties should have designated appropriate vehicles for the supply of vaccines, budget line for immunization should be made mandatory and actual disbursement of finances for procurement of supplies.

The meeting also brought together Civil Society Organizations such as Health NGOs Network (HENNET) and Institute of Public Finance Kenya (IPFK) and Narok-based Community Health Partners (CHP) who were urged to hold regular sensitization forums of county political and technical leaders to push for changes in the vaccine supply chain.

According to the State of Devolution Address 2019, the Council of Governors note that immunization is a major component of preventive care services and acknowledged that for UHC to be achieved, there is need for deeper partnerships between the national government, county governments and the private sector.

After the analysis of the county reports are done, another stakeholders’ meeting will be held to have consultations with senior officials at national and county level to disseminate recommendations with the expectation that MOH will eventually form a technical working group to develop a responsibility matrix for distribution of vaccines.

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