Catholic Bishops in the country want the Ministry of Health (MoH) to postpone the forthcoming polio vaccination campaign “until we can assure Kenyans of their safety.” The campaign that is to set to start on August 1 targets children aged 5 and below.
In statement dated July 28 the Bishops say the vaccines to be used have not tested jointly according to an agreement the Bishops say they arrived at with the government.
The statement which is signed by all the 27 Bishops of the church including Cardinal John Njue falls short of accusing the government of not honoring its promise on the joint testing of the vaccines.
This is not the first time that the Bishops who lead one of the biggest church in the country and are clashing with the government on the safety of vaccines.
A while back the Bishops who also form one of the most influential group of opinion leaders in Kenya were opposed to a tetanus vaccination campaign on women saying the vaccines were an indirect birth control method, an argument that was later confirmed.
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease which causes paralysis. It has no cure and can only be prevented through vaccination.
Owing to the fact that the Bishops were proven right when they opposed the tetanus vaccine, their stand against the polio vaccine is bound to affect the effectiveness of the forthcoming campaign should Kenyans head their call.
Besides their call comes at the wake of reports that more than twenty children in Teso have been paralyzed after allegedly being administered with unsafe injections, a case which they cite in their statement.
Below is the full statement:
PRESS STATEMENT BY THE KENYA CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS ON THE SCHEDULED POLIO SUPPLEMENTARY IMMUNIZATION ACTIVITIES
The truth will set us free: The safety of Kenyans must be assured.
In February this year, KCCB adopted a recommendation by the joint Ministry of Health/KCCB Committee of experts on tetanus vaccine that; all mass vaccination Campaigns in this country be done only with an all-inclusive sampling and appropriate testing exercise undertaken before, during and after the vaccination campaign to ensure safety of vaccines.
This recommendation was presented to the Office of the President in a meeting held on 16 January 2015 convened by Mr. Joseph Kinyua and attended by the Cabinet Secretary and Principle Secretary MoH; the meeting adopted this recommendation and further resolved that a permanent committee be formed for this purpose. We are still waiting for this to be done.
On 14th April 2015, KCCB held a consultative meeting with the Director of Medical Services (Dr. Nicholas Muraguri) and senior members of his team, on the Polio vaccination campaign that had been scheduled for April and May 2015. The Campaign was postponed and the following were resolved:
1)That the manufacturer provides us with declaratory documents including the chromatograms from a High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) tests done internally in their quality assurance laboratory. This should include the pre-test prep of the sample.
2)That we undertake joint sampling of the vaccines.
3)That we run the samples through an independent HPLC machine and confirm if our test results will match those of the manufacturer.
None of these resolutions have been implemented to date.
On 7th July 2015, KCCB held another Polio vaccination consultation with the Director of Medical Services and his team. The meeting resolved as follows:
1)That to ensure that the polio vaccines to be used for the Campaign are safe for Kenyan children; a joint MoH/KCCB committee undertakes joint sampling of the polio vaccines to be tested by the National Quality Control laboratory and another private independent laboratory.
2)For faster laboratory analysis, the manufacturer’s declaration with the corresponding Chromatogram would be required so that the laboratory tests to be carried out on the vaccine are to confirm that the results correspond with those presented by the manufacturer. This is the pre-requisite process by Pharmacy and Poisons Board for all drugs to be registered for use in Kenya in line with Kenya’s medicines quality assurance processes.
None of these resolutions have been undertaken.
In light of these happenings, we are deeply concerned about the casual manner in which legitimate concerns raised on behalf of Kenyans are being handled.
We have waited for joint sampling of the polio vaccines since April 2015 with no success.
We have similarly waited for the manufacturer’s declaratory information with no success yet millions of these doses are already in Kenya.
We are not in conflict with the MoH but we have an Apostolic and moral duty to ensure that Kenyans are getting safe vaccines.
What is so wrong or bad about the questions and recommendations by KCCB? Recently, we experienced 30 children being paralyzed after receiving injections of what is highly suspected to have had a problem.
There was also another case where anti-malarial drugs, believed to be quinine meant for advanced treatment of malaria and already in use were confirmed to only contain paracetamol when the expected response was not forthcoming.
Unless safety is addressed, such cases will continue to happen.
The well-being and safety of Kenya people has to be protected. The future and security of our children is at stake and hence diligent need to address these security concerns.
In light of all these concerns, we are asking the Ministry of Health to postpone the polio vaccination campaign scheduled to commence on Ist August 2015 until we can assure Kenyans of their safety.
Should this not be done, we the Catholic Bishops in Kenya are asking all Kenyans not to participate in the exercise until such a time that the manufacturer’s declaratory documents have been produced, the recommended sampling and testing has been undertaken and confirmed that the vaccines are safe for use in Kenya.
May our good Lord continue to bless you all.