NAIROBI, Nov 22 (Reuters) – A group of Kenyan and foreign companies welcomed on Monday a government edict that residents from Dec. 21 must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access services, saying this would boost very low vaccine takeup in the country.
Rights group Amnesty International criticised the move, saying Kenya would not be able to vaccinate the majority of its population in just four weeks and so many people might be unable to earn a living, access transport or go to school.
Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe made the announcement on Sunday. Public services affected include schools, transport services, immigration and other state offices, and hotels, bars, restaurants, national parks and wildlife reserves.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to reuters.comRegister
Directives about vaccines have split public opinion globally: some politicians and citizens say measures infringe on personal choice and others say they protect the public.
Carol Kariuki, chief executive of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), an umbrella body that claims over half a million members, told Reuters group encouraged all Kenyans to get inoculated.
"This is not only good for business continuity and the economy but also to protect others," she said.
Official figures show 8.8% of people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the East African country so far.
Irungu Houghton, executive director of Amnesty International's Kenya office, said the government directive was unrealistic.
"These regulations will deprive millions of people of their ability to earn a livelihood, to have access to security, health and transportation services back and forth from home to work or school," he told Reuters.
"That’s not how we will win the war against COVID-19,” he said. "In many ways it turns what the WHO (World Health Organization) would argue is an important voluntary exercise into a coercive exercise."
The government will launch a 10-day mass vaccination campaign on Friday, Kagwe said in his statement.
Though low compared to Western nations, Kenya's rate of fully vaccinated citizens is higher than the African average of under 5%. The WHO says Africa lags in COVID-19 vaccination rates due to global inequities in vaccine supplies, not because Africans do not want to be vaccinated.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to reuters.comRegisterReporting by Maggie Fick
Editing by Mark Heinrich