Amid the ensuing shouts from the crowd were condemnations of a more insidious plague here in Kenya: public services working for them with connections and money and pushing everyone else back on the line.
“They have another door for their friends,” said Mary Njoroge, 58, one of the teachers. “Without a godfather who can help you through this process, what are you going to do?”
Kenya procured around 1 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines through Covax, a global health organization supported by the World Health Organization, and began administering them for free last month. The scene at Ngong Sub-County Hospital was a microcosm of how some people here have experienced the rollout: slow and confusing if you are poor, fast and simple if you are not.
Margaret Kamau, head of the vaccination unit at Ngong Sub-County Hospital, denied allegations that nurses allowed people to jump over the line.
Juliana Nderitu, the other teacher, said she had tried to book points online at private hospitals, but websites were glittering. Tuesday was the couple’s second wait since dawn and put their trust in what was meant to be a first-come-first-served basis for eligible recipients, a group that now includes various key workers and all adults over the age of 58 .
“There was no proper planning when it came to this rollout, which is why you see this kind of confusion,” said Chibanzi Mwachonda, acting secretary general of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union.
At a press conference on Thursday, Kenyan Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe pleaded for patience.
“We are very pleased that there is a great demand for the vaccine from Kenyans,” said Kagwe. “Let us not panic or become anxious. The government will provide vaccines to all adults in Kenya in a step-by-step proach. ”
As of Thursday, Kenya has administered first doses to just over 160,000 of its 54 million people, a relatively slow rate compared to other countries. The second dose point is given in May and June.
The country’s health ministry says it aims to fully vaccinate half of the population by June 2022 and rely primarily on Covax, although donations from wealthy countries are expected to pick up as their own vaccination campaigns slow down.
Late last month, amid an increase in the number of cases and the dwindling hospital space centered around Nairobi, the cital, the government introduced domestic movement restrictions and extended the hours with a curfew that has been in place for more than a year. For five months last year, Kenya closed its borders, but so far, international travelers can still come and go.
As in last year’s lock-in function, however, the government has offered little support to the vast majority of Kenyans working in the informal sector, whose ability to work is severely limited by the constraints, hardening a belief among many that the government’s precautionary measures are mainly is mainly intended to protect the wealthy, while the poor become even more vulnerable.
An opaque rollout of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine on the private market in March as well as news reports that Nairobi’s large UN staff contingent and diplomatic corps are offered Covax vaccines by the government has raised questions about the government’s priorities involving who to vaccinate 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, claimed that they were the first and second people in the country to receive the Russian vaccine, which was sold for about $ 100 for both doses.
The vaccine, which has not been proven by the WHO, was authorized for use in emergencies in Kenya, but health officials scraped in recent days to explain how private physicians administering doses to prominent personalities were covered by emergency regulations.
Those seeking free vaccines in richer parts of Nairobi have also simply found it easier to go into a hospital and find vaccines without waiting in line.
Joseph Mutisya, a physiotherapist, said he burst through the process at Nairobi Hospital, the country’s largest private health facility. He made a post through the hospital’s website, and knowing computers was less deterred by the errors it had.
“I came in with my reservation message, I showed my doctor’s exercise license to qualify, they gave me a number to wait for, they called it, I registered my information and 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 institution largely serving Kibra’s sprawling slums, hundreds of people climbed outside the gate where confusion reigned.
A security guard at the hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media, said the crowds gather every day when she reports to work before noon.
“It’s how early you wake up that determines whether you get the vaccine,” she said. “Many have been returned and told that the vaccines are ready for the day.”