As his school reopened Tuesday, Bernard Ingutia, a teacher in Kakamega County, western Kenya, was almost well-prepared to welcome his students, except not having taken the COVID-19 vaccine jab.
“What has made me delay taking the vaccine is the fear that I may not get the second jab due to the crisis in India, what may render the first dose inconsequential,” Ingutia told Xinhua in an interview by phone.
Other teachers cited long travel distances to the points of vaccination, especially for those in rural areas, and there is also general disinterest. “I need to travel close to 100 km to get the jab, which costs a lot of money. Besides that being in the village, I am not at high risk,” said Agnes Munyao, a teacher in Baringo County.
Teachers were prioritized in the east African nation’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, alongside health workers and security personnel. The teachers were supposed to take the jabs in March and April when schools were on recess, in preparation for reopening of the schools on May 10.
But uptake of the vaccine among the tutors remains lukewarm months later, raising concern among stakeholders.
According to the Ministry of Health, 143,684 teachers have been vaccinated out of a workforce of 337,432, accounting for 42.5 percent. The number, however, excludes support staff in secondary schools and universities, lecturers, teachers in private colleges and kindergartens.
There are more than 3.5 million pupils in Kenyan private and public schools, according to the Ministry of Education.
Nancy Macharia, the chief executive at the Teachers Service Commission, acknowledged that there has been a slow uptake of vaccines among teachers, but a majority of the tutors aged 58 above have taken the jab.
“I ask all teachers to take up the vaccine. They have an opportunity to get vaccinated despite their ages thus should take the chance and protect their lives,” she said Monday.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 in Kenya, some 37 teachers have succumbed to the disease.
Kenya has confirmed 163,620 COVID-19 cases, 112,298 recoveries and 2,907 deaths as of Monday. Enditem