Get vaccinated to avoid financial distress, expert advises

Kisii Teaching & Referral Hospital CEO Dr. Enock on receiving his 1st dose of the Covishield vaccine on March 17, 2021. PHOTO/FB

Are you living with underlying conditions or aged 58 and above?

If you fit in those categories, then getting vaccinated against Covid-19 would be a financially wise investment, an expert has advised Kenyans.

Dr Marybeth Maritim of the National Vaccine Safety Committee is recommending young and elderly people with comorbidities to get vaccinated.

“It is advisable for people of all ages with comorbidities or underlying conditions to get vaccinated,” said the medic during a webinar on vaccination held on May 3, 2021.

Quoting a report on Covid-19 treatment costs entitled Examining unit costs for Covid-19 case management in Kenya, written by Cabinet Administrative Secretary Dr Mercy Mwangangi and colleagues, Dr Maritim said the cost of care for a patient with critical Covid-19 is estimated at around Sh63,000.

“The costs that were estimated at around Sh 63,243 or USD 599.51  per day for a patient admitted for 10 days. They were conservative as the researchers used costs in public health facilities,” the medic remarked on the report she co-authored. “It is likely to cost more for patients in private facilities,” she added.

In the report, the cost of caring for a patient infected with severe Covid-19 in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is estimated at Sh157,645 or USD 1,494.38 per day.

Dr Maritim said the cost was likely to shoot up for patients with underlying conditions in case of Covid-19 infection.

“If you have the risk factors such as comorbidities, then get infected and go on to develop severe illness, this will definitely cost you more,” said the medic. “This is because some patients with comorbidities require dialysis, chemotherapy and other procedures in addition to the Covid treatment,” she added.

The medic was quick to point out that ICU admission was not a guarantee of saving the patient’s life as it meant that severe disease.

“We have lost a lot patients in the ICU. Receiving the vaccine does not prevent us from getting infected but protects us against the risk of developing severe disease in case of infection. In case you get infected after being vaccinated, you will probably develop mild symptoms and go on to recover after treatment,” she said.  

A report entitled Epidemiological and Clinical Characteristics of Covid-19 patients and published on September 11, 2020, shows that an estimated 11 percent of Kenyan Covid-19 patients were admitted in the ICU.

The report was written by eminent scientists including acting Ministry of Health director general and World Health Organization vice president Dr Patrick Amoth, Kenyatta National Hospital Infectious diseases Unit head and University of Nairobi lecturer Dr Lois Ombajo, Kenyatta National Hospital chief executive Dr Evans Kamuri, Nairobi University medic and researcher Prof Omu Anzala and the National Vaccine Safety Committee’s Dr Marybeth Martitim.

In the study, the median age of the participants was 43 years, with 505 or 64 percent recorded as male. Out of the sample population, 455 or 58 percent were symptomatic.

At least 43 percent or 340 of the 787 patients studied had comorbidities. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and HIV were documented in 130 or 17 percent, 116 or 15 percent and 53 or 7 percent of the cases respectively.

A total of 90 or 11 percent of the patients were admitted to the ICU for an average of 11 days. Another 52 or 7 percent were put on oxygen or ventilated for an average of 10 days.

Out of the 787 admitted, 107 or 14 percent died. The study records that the risk of death increased one and a half times for people aged 60 years and above. It shot up to 2.34 times greater for those with comorbidities.

In what should be of concern to men, the risk of dying while male from the viral disease is 1.76 times higher than that of the average female.

Dr Maritim said the cost of treating asymptomatic Covid-19 was not covered in the study because such patients are not always treated at facilities.

Addressing a Kenyatta National Hospital (KHN) webinar on vaccination on May 3, 2021, Dr Maritim encouraged Kenyans with comorbidities to go for the vaccine, saying the added cost of treating Covid-19 infection could complicate financial matters for them and their families.

“Given the high cost of Covid-19 infection and the health challenges it presents, it would be wise to get vaccinated and reduce the risks of developing severe disease. Those with comorbidities will significantly benefit from vaccination,” she said.

Dr Maritim also appealed to Kenyans in the high risk groups including those aged above 58 that are yet to be vaccinated to to “practice strict adherence to Covid-19 preventive measures like washing hands, social distancing and hand-washing to reduce the risk of infection”.

The current Covid-19 count stands at 2,763 dead, with 108,861 recoveries out of a total of 160,422 cases so far diagnosed.

Out of the recoveries, 79,273 were recovered under home based care while the remaining 29,588 were from health facilities.

Now, how much is the cost of a vaccine shot in Kenya? Covid-19 vaccination is free of charge, courtesy of the government’s commitment to buy 15 million doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine for up to 30 percent of its population.

Initially, Kenya had planned to bring in a total of 11 million doses in the first two phases of a Sh34 billion project to immunize 30 per cent of the country’s population.

While attributing the delay in the expected April arrival of the second Covid-19 vaccine batch on March 31, 2021, Dr Rashid Aman said the government planned to import 20 million doses within the current fiscal year.

Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe and CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi have also recently confirmed that the government is in negotiations with suppliers for an unspecified dosage of Johnson and Johnson vaccines.   

To reach the coverage level recommended by the Global Alliance for Vaccines (Gavi), Kenya requires 30 million doses to vaccinate 60 per cent of its population.

Before the government put an abrupt stop to the sales of the Sputnik V vaccine in the country last month, a single dose of the two-shot Russian jab was being sold in the country for Sh7,500.

The state further banned private sector importation of Covid-19 vaccines, following the start of an aggressive advertising campaign by the jab’s suppliers.

After several high profile Kenyans including Deputy President William Ruto posted photos of their vaccination procedures online, the state prohibited the importation of Covid-19 vaccines by the private sector.

The country has almost exhausted its first batch of 1.02 million doses that arrived on March 2, 2021. So far, 886, 288 people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 nationally. Of these, 516,140 are aged 58 years and above.

Vaccinated health workers are now at 158,103 while teachers

that have gotten the jab are 137,581. A total of 74,464 security officers have been vaccinated.  

For Kenyans interested in getting vaccinated via the national program, the vaccine is absolutely free of charge. All one has to do is log onto the platform and seek a booking for the jab.

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