Vaccine equity is critical for ending the pandemic; however, significant disparities persist. By February 2022, while 2 in 3 people had received at least one dose in high-income countries, that number was only 1 in 9 in those classified as low-income.
In Kenya and Uganda, respectively, only 23.3% and 21% of the adult population had been fully vaccinated by early February 2022. In some instances, vaccines go unutilized due to short shelf-life, storage and distribution challenges, or misconceptions about them. And vaccines alone will not get shots in arms: CHWs must be mobilized to educate and sensitize communities.
We’re proud of the role we’ve played in supporting the governments of Uganda and Kenya to access vaccine supplies and utilize community health structures to reach the last mile. Through COVAX, Africa CDC/African Union, and other governments, Uganda received more than 34.5 million doses and Kenya more than 24.6 million in 2021. We’ve also leveraged forums like the Africa CDC to advocate for the recognition and categorization of CHWs as essential health workers, to ensure they receive PPE and are prioritized for vaccination and compensation.
Over 2021, we continued but refined the program adjustments we made for COVID in 2020 to ensure families at the last mile were still able to receive life-saving services. Some of these include free essential medicines, simplified and slightly increased compensation structures to ensure CHW motivation, and remote protocols for supervision and for CHWs in service delivery.
We were also energized in 2021 to see the Ugandan government paying CHWs a stipend for the first time, covering three months, to recognize their role in supporting communities during the pandemic. We continue to engage the government and other key stakeholders to sustain this in the next financial year.
However, we continued to see supply chain challenges, which led to inadequate distribution of PPE in both Living Goods and government-led programs; untimely or no compensation for CHWs in government-led programs; and weak community-based disease surveillance (CBDS) systems, especially where systems are still paper-based. That’s why we jump-started the journey to support the Kenyan government to develop workflows on CBDS and a two-way referral mechanism linking facilities and community health units.
As we look to the future, we can only hope that the lessons learned from tackling a global pandemic will be entrenched in health systems going forward. At Living Goods, we have committed to investing in and supporting governments to improve their pandemic preparedness and response capacities.