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Kenya doesn’t have a flu vaccine policy. Why it needs one for babies

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Flu
Influenza (flu) is a very contagious viral infection that affects a child’s breathing system. PHOTO | FILE 

Each year the World Health Organisation gathers data on influenza strains and recommends which strains countries should include in formulating vaccines for the next year.

Many countries around the world administer these vaccines because the influenza virus – known as the flu virus – is a significant contributor to respiratory illness.

In Africa only a few countries issue the vaccine annually: Ivory Coast, Egypt, Libya, Mauritius, Tunisia and South Africa.

Kenya is one of the countries on the continent that doesn’t have a flu vaccination programme. The vaccine is available in the private sector but isn’t affordable for most Kenyans. Because there is no national programme, children also don’t receive it as part of their regular immunisation schedule in public hospitals. This is despite the fact that a quarter of Kenyan patients who seek medical care for respiratory symptoms have the flu virus in their systems.

The reason there isn’t a programme is because, until recently, there were no updated figures on the national burden of flu across age groups in Kenya. In addition, for many years data was only collected at a regional level. And when national data was available, it was collected when there was a flu pandemic in the country in 2009. The data from this period was not helpful for policymakers to establish what the national burden of seasonal flu would be in a period when there wasn’t a pandemic.

We set out to get the first breakdown of Kenya’s flu burden on a national scale after the 2009 flu pandemic period, to inform the decision to approve and roll out an effective seasonal flu vaccine programme.

Based on our findings we conclude that children under the age of two should be prioritised for vaccination.

We obtained data from health facilities across the country that are part of the national influenza surveillance programme. We collected samples from about 10 000 patients with a cough and fever who were admitted to either Kenyatta National Hospital or five county referral hospitals between January 2012 and December 2014. The samples were tested to confirm the presence of the virus.

The virus was found in 9 percent of the patients who were tested. We found flu was associated with 50 000 cases where people were severely ill, and about 10 000 admissions each year across the country.

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We were able to draw several conclusions from our study. Firstly, the risk of children being admitted to hospital varied with age. Children under the age of five were 17 times more likely to be admitted with flu than older children and adults. Among children, those under the age of two were most likely to get sick from the flu.

The rates of severe flu were also high in elderly people and primary school children between the ages of five and 14. But this was not to the same degree as babies.

Secondly, there were differences in the rates of disease across regions in Kenya. The Rift Valley region, for example, recorded the highest rates of people who were admitted to hospital for flu related symptoms. Nairobi recorded the lowest.

These variations indicate that there are differences in risk factors for severe respiratory illness between regions in Kenya. These include the prevalence of malnutrition, overcrowding within homes, non-exclusive breastfeeding in children, household pollution and HIV.

The North Eastern region of the country had the highest rates of severely sick people who had not been hospitalised for their illness. What this reveals is that people in this region were unable to access health facilities as easily as their counterparts in the rest of the country.

Kenya’s warm climate means that it’s not naturally considered to have a flu problem. Flu has usually been shown to be of concern in more temperate climates where there are clear summer and winter seasons.

But our statistics reveal that Kenya has a higher rate of disease than many other countries which have a temperate climate where we would expect the burden of disease to be higher.

If a flu vaccine is to be introduced in Kenya it would have to be administered annually. The vaccine’s effectiveness each year would depend on how well the vaccine strain matches the circulating flu strains.

To address these fluctuations, the vaccine development world is looking into the viability of a universal flu vaccine. This would be effective against all circulating flu strains. The universal vaccine would require vaccination either once in a lifetime or once every few years depending on how long the protection lasts.

In the Kenyan setting there are several considerations policymakers need to think about when deciding whether or not to introduce a vaccine programme. This includes evaluating whether it would be cost-effective in the country, what the staffing and cold chain requirements would be and how best it would be incorporated in the current immunisation schedule.

In the meantime, our study provides the Kenyan government with the impetus it needs to seriously start considering this annual vaccination programme, particularly for young children.

The author, Jeanette Dawa, is a researcher, University of Nairobi

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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