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Ministry to test antibodies ahead of vaccination

The Ministry of Health has said it will conduct antibodies test to ascertain how many Kenyans have been infected with Covid-19.

The last such test in June 2020 showed about two million Kenyans had antibodies to the virus.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the exercise will be conducted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

This will help the ministry decide how to apportion the Covid-19 vaccine because people with antibodies have some natural immunity against the virus and might not need a vaccine urgently. 

“Moving forward we intend to keep a high level of surveillance and also want to embark on serosurveillance to find out how many would probably have had Covid and not known about it and therefore we can tell what levels of herd immunity we have developed,” Kagwe said.

“The whole idea of vaccination is to develop herd immunity and we would like to know where we are even as we are string with the vaccines.”

Last week, scientists projected that Covid-19 cases and deaths will likely peak in mid-March, with large numbers to come from schools.

Experts from the Kemri estimate there will be between 10,600 and 16,800 new Covid-19 cases and 116 more deaths by June 1.  

They say the reopening of schools may cause a rise of the transmission rate by 25 per cent.

“We predict that by mid-February the impact of schools opening should be clear in terms of case numbers,” the experts said.

The scientists say more than 1.1 million infections could occur over the same period, with the large majority of infections going undetected.

“A worst-case scenario would be an increase in transmission rate by 50 per cent and resulting in an epidemic of similar magnitude to the second outbreak in the country. We think this is unlikely,” Kemri said in a statement Thursday.

This report comes barely two weeks after Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the government will not declare the curve flattened despite a consistent infection rate below five per cent.

“Under normal circumstances and given the positivity rate we have been experiencing over the last one or two weeks, we would be thinking about the declaration of a flattened curve,” Kagwe said.

However, he said, the government had yet to consider the impact of the holiday season and reopening of schools.

Consequently, the containment measures such as the curfew would remain, he said.

Kemri said the 25 per cent increase in transmission rate will depend on whether other restrictions are still in place and level of precaution taken in schools.

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