by Kariuki Maina (@main_man_maina)
Since COVID19 hit Kenya, the Ministry of Health has been astute to record the number of daily positive cases. Yesterday, while writing this article, the number of new cases was 452, with a positivity rate of 9.3%. What does positivity rate mean and why is Kenya’s above WHO’s cut off?
Positivity rate implies the number of COVID19 infections discovered over X number of administered tests. Kenya’s positivity rate of 9.3% implies that for every 100 tests given, about 9.3 people result positive. A positive result does not mean severe symptoms or death, it just means they are positive. This is important because it can guide isolation procedures and monitoring for development of COVID19 pneumonia. However, the type of test administered and the reporting infrastructure in a given country influences the positivity rate.
WHO suggests that a positivity rate below 5% means the pandemic is under control in the given population. Kenya’s positivity rate is at 9.3% and has been steady over the past few months. Why is Kenya’s positivity rate worrisome? Well, many have felt the economic downturn associated with the pandemic. The curfews, the closing of restaurants/bars, and here at Udhamini, the closing of schools has had a harsh reality on our lives. While we are slowly “opening” it remains to be seen when and how our positivity rate can fall below 5%.
The answer is in vaccinations.
Table 1: Comparison of main COVID19 vaccines being used worldwide. Data obtained from various online sources including CDC, WHO. Other vaccines in clinical trials-Novavax/USA; Bharat/India; Abdala/Cuba; CanSino/China.
In March 2021, Kenya received about 1million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. By May, about 940,000 of these vaccines had been disbursed, although with great hesitancy due to temporary withdrawal of the vaccine after reports of embolism (blood clots). Embolisms are a feared complication of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. They are the result of blood producing acute phase reactants, a normal immunological response to foreign material in the body. Think of it as the body firing missiles in the process of defending itself from a foreign enemy, except with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the missiles are nuclear! It is a rare side effect of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, with only about 222 cases and 30 deaths upon 34million doses in European Union (fatality rate of ~0.000001%). This is to say that the benefit outweighs the risks- Table 1.
Do we know that vaccination benefits society? Well, we know because of successes from other vaccines such as Polio and Smallpox. While these vaccines took year of research to make, the COVID vaccine took less than one year. This has been a source of much distrust in the community. We at Udhamini would like to clarify that the technology nowadays is very different from the 1960s when the Polio and Smallpox vaccines were being made. The stakes for the COVID vaccine were also higher, with people’s livelihood shattered at best. Nevertheless, there has been a good correlation between vaccination rates and reduced cases at least in the USA- Figure 1.
Figure 1: States with fewer vaccination rates (X-axis) have more cases per 100,000 people (Y axis)- Dan Keating et al. June 14th 2021. Coronavirus infections are dropping where people are vaccinated, rising where they are not; post analysis finds. Washington Post
In conclusion, vaccination is good. COVID vaccines are safe and effective. Kenya just recently received a $130 million grant form the World Bank for vaccinations and has order 13million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Get yours today!