By Mariselah Kimbio

Kenya is set to introduce a 6-in-1 vaccine to enhance its routine immunization schedule the vaccine, also referred to as the Hexavalent Vaccine, has received approval from the Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) board for inclusion in the immunization schedule for developing countries like Kenya.

The vaccine protects children against diseases such as Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type B, and Poliomyelitis (Polio).

According to a statement by Gavi, a window would now be opened for countries to apply for funding. Gavi and Alliance partners would assist countries currently administering the pentavalent vaccine and desiring to transition to the new vaccine. Additionally, they would collaborate with manufacturers to safeguard the health of the pentavalent and IPV markets.

Gavi, an international organization dedicated to improving access to vaccines for children in low-income countries, has played a crucial role in endorsing the inclusion of this new vaccine. The Hexavalent Vaccine will be administered to infants at 8, 12, and 16 weeks, ensuring they develop strong immunity against the targeted diseases.

UNICEF has issued a statement estimating that approximately 100 million doses of this vaccine will be required worldwide by 2030. UNICEF emphasized the inclusion of the Hexavalent Vaccine in immunization programs will ease the burden on healthcare systems, reduce the number of vaccination sessions required, and increase the coverage of the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV). This, in turn, will prevent the premature withdrawal of IPV from countries’ immunization programs.

In 2019, Gavi introduced the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV), one of the components included in the polio vaccine portion of the Hexavalent Vaccine. It is important to note that the Hexavalent Vaccine is an inactivated vaccine that does not contain any live organisms and poses no risk of causing the vaccinated individual to contract the targeted conditions.

However, like any vaccine, the Hexavalent Vaccine may have some side effects, which can include pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site, as well as a high temperature (more commonly observed after the 2nd and 3rd doses), nausea, irritability, and loss of appetite.

While the vaccine is recommended for the majority of infants, there are specific situations in which some babies may be exempted from receiving it. These situations include infants allergic to the vaccine, those with a high temperature during vaccination appointments, and those experiencing a worsening neurological problem, including poorly controlled epilepsy.

By incorporating the 6-in-1 Hexavalent Vaccine into its routine immunization schedule, Kenya aims to provide enhanced protection against multiple diseases for its children. This significant step contributes to the global effort towards better health outcomes and reducing the burden of vaccine-preventable illnesses among vulnerable populations.