Amid the following screams from the crowd, a more insidious plague was denounced here in Kenya: public services that work for those with connections and money and put everyone else in the background.
“You have another door for your friends,” said Mary Njoroge, 58, one of the teachers. “Without a sponsor to help you with this process, what should you do?”
Kenya sourced approximately 1 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses through Covax, a global vaccine distribution effort supported by the World Health Organization, and began giving it free last month. The scene at Ngong Sub-County Hospital was a microcosm of how some people here have seen the rollout: slow and confusing when you are poor, quick and easy when you are not.
Margaret Kamau, the vaccination director at Ngong Sub-County Hospital, denied allegations that nurses allowed people to cross the border.
Juliana Nderitu, the other teacher, said she tried booking appointments online at private hospitals but the websites were flawed. Tuesday was the second day the couple had waited since dawn and relied on a system designed as a first-come-first-serve system for eligible recipients. This group now includes various key workers and all adults over the age of 58.
“There was no proper planning for this rollout, and that’s why you’re seeing this type of confusion,” said Chibanzi Mwachonda, acting secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union.
In a press conference on Thursday, the Kenyan Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe asked for patience.
“We are pleased that Kenyans are in great demand for the vaccine,” said Kagwe. “Let’s not panic or get scared. The government will gradually make vaccines available to all adults in Kenya. “
As of Thursday, Kenya had just over 160,000 of its 54 million people on first doses, which is a relatively slow rate compared to other countries. Appointments for the second dose are given for May and June.
The country’s health ministry plans to fully vaccinate half of the population by June 2022, relying primarily on Covax. However, donations from more affluent countries are expected to pick up again once their own vaccination campaigns slow down.
Late last month, amid a surge in case numbers and dwindling hospital space centered on the capital, Nairobi, the government reinstated restrictions on domestic movement and extended hours of curfew that has been in place for more than a year. Last year Kenya closed its borders for five months, but for now international travelers can still come and go.
However, as with last year’s lockdown, the government has offered little support to the vast majority of Kenyans who work in the informal sector and whose ability to work is severely limited by the restrictions, adding to the conviction of many that government precautions should be primary protect the rich and make the poor more vulnerable.
An opaque rollout of Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine in the private market in March, as well as news that the government is offering Covax vaccines to Nairobi’s large contingent and United Nations diplomatic corps, have raised questions about the government’s priorities in which it is involved are vaccinated first. (On Friday, Kagwe announced that Kenya would no longer allow companies to import, distribute, or administer vaccine doses.)
Earlier this week, two of Kenya’s best-known and media-savvy lawyers, each with around a million followers on Twitter, said they were the first and second people in the country to receive the Russian vaccine, which sold for around $ 100 for both doses.
The vaccine, which is not approved by the WHO, has been approved in Kenya for emergency use. In the past few days, however, health officials have been trying to explain how private medical providers who dose celebrities are covered by emergency regulations.
Those looking for free vaccines in more affluent areas of Nairobi have also simply found it easier to go to a hospital and find vaccines without standing in line.
Joseph Mutisya, a physical therapist, said he went through the process at Nairobi Hospital, the largest private health facility in the country. He made an appointment through the hospital’s website, and the familiarity with computers was less put off by the interference.
“I came in with my booking message, I showed my doctor’s practice license to qualify, they gave me a number to wait for, they called, I registered my details, and I got the vaccine,” he said. “The whole process took no more than 45 minutes.”
Less than half a mile away, at Mbagathi Hospital, a public facility primarily serving the sprawling Kibera slum, hundreds of people shouted outside the gate where there was confusion.
A security guard at the hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity for not having the authority to speak to the media, said crowds gather every day if she reports for work before 6 a.m.
“How early you wake up determines whether you will receive the vaccine,” she said. “Many were rejected saying the vaccines were ready for the day.”