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Kenyans are sharing vaccine information their government won’t provide

A man receives a Covid-19 vaccine in Nairobi, Kenya.
Reuters/Baz Ratner
Kenyans are using Twitter to encourage each other to get vaccinated.
  • Carlos Mureithi
By Carlos Mureithi

East Africa correspondent

Published Last updated on

Looking to fill information gaps and boost vaccination numbers, Kenyans are using social media to spread details of Covid-19 vaccine availability.

They’re sharing posts on Twitter about medical facilities that have Covid-19 vaccines, as well as which ones boost short queues and waiting times, in a bid to encourage each other to get vaccinated.

Since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Kenya in March 2020, the country has recorded 229,009 cases and around 4,500 deaths from the disease. It has had a nighttime curfew for 17 months, and is currenctly experiencing its fourth wave of the pandemic. So far, the country has received nearly 2.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from sources including the Covax vaccine sharing initiative and donations from other countries.

Only 2.13% of the country’s 53 million people has been vaccinated.

Vaccine arrivals are highly publicized

The arrival of vaccine shipments are almost always highly publicized events, with photo ops of Kenyan officials and donors welcoming them at an airport. But beyond this, there’s rarely equally matching effort by the government to publicize the locations where the public can access the doses.

The country’s health ministry a list of approved Covid-19 vaccination centers on its website. But there are barely updates, and this has created confusion, with people unaware of which centers have the vaccines in stock, how to sign up for doses, what the waiting times are. The country’s health ministry has not responded to a request for comment from Quartz.

Now Kenyans on Twitter are addressing this challenge using hashtags including #PataChanjoKE (“pata chanjo” is Swahili for “get a vaccine”). They’re posting information about health facilities that have Covid-19 vaccines, sharing their experiences of getting jabbed, and trying to motivate others to get jabbed.

The vaccine information gap is a big challenge in addressing the pandemic in Kenya, says Anand Madhvani, co-founder of Covid Kenya, a group of volunteers that runs a similarly named Twitter page to create awareness about Covid-19 issues, including vaccine availability. The government’s failure to prioritize vaccine information in its public messaging is making people confused about what their priorities should be, he says.

“It’s that extra straw on the camel’s back, where people say ‘Okay, then, I don’t know. I don’t know what to do,'” he says.

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