Improving the Lives of Children in Kenya

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In April 2011, Everline, a resident of the Kibera community in Kenya, was approached by a community mobilizer. Talking with him was normal to her, but this time the information he had was different. He came to talk to her about a seasonal flu vaccine study that was being carried out by KEMRI/CDC. As he talked, Everline realized that it was important for her two school-aged children to be vaccinated. So on a Tuesday in June, during the tea break at her children’s school, she picked them up and headed to Injili takatifu church, the nearest vaccination site. There, she met KEMRI/CDC staff who guided her through the vaccination process.

Everline’s children were two of nearly 8,000 children between the ages of six months and 10 years who were vaccinated in the Kibera and Lwak communities in Kenya as part of the study. “We were overwhelmed on the first day because so many people came for the vaccine,” notes KEMRI/CDC Field Coordinator Kennedy Alwenya.

The program’s success could be attributed to the 20 cluster/community mobilizers who worked to encourage people to participate in this important campaign. The campaign will assess factors associated with acceptance of vaccine, and will evaluate the effectiveness of single and double doses of vaccine. Since about half of the children who received their first dose of vaccine returned for a second dose, it will be possible for researchers to compare illness rates for children who received no doses of flu vaccine to those who received one or two doses.

Influenza Public Health Advisor Kathleen Morales says that the flu vaccine has been in existence for the past 60 years, but has not been widely used, especially in the developing world, where influenza vaccine has not been available for routine use. The vaccinations also have to be formulated from time to time to match the circulating strain. According to WHO, the single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination before each annual flu season.

Everline’s ten-year-old son saw the benefits of vaccination benefits right away. “I will no longer blow my nose all the time,” he said, with a smile on his face.