In the past two years, the sisters have walked in the frontline to fight against covid19 creating awareness on prevention, vaccination, and treating those infected and counseling them, reaching to over 7,050968 people and vaccinating over 150,000 for COVID19 (1.8%) of the country’s total vaccine administered by April 15th, 2022. A very encouraging result amidst the resistance to the vaccines.
Catholic sisters have always worked to improve and increase accessibility of basic healthcare to the most vulnerable in the communities. Majority of them run levels one and two health facilities, which mostly take care of the poor and vulnerable. Owing to their vast distribution across the country, direct engagement in the health sector and proximity to masses of people, catholic sisters have a strategic advantage of reaching the masses with COVID-19 preventive and vaccination messages.
The Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) has launched a six-months COVID-19 Prevention and COVID-19 Awareness Campaign to encourage communities to get vaccinated and embrace other preventive measures.
Through funding from the Hilton Foundation, 80 sister-run health facilities spread across the country will participate in this campaign with the goal to ensure Catholic nuns champion for the realization of a COVID-19 free nation. Approximately 1,500 front line health workers (including sisters) will benefit from various trainings to build their capacity and knowledge on COVID-19 during the campaign period running from July and December 2021. The campaign is expected to reach approximately 5 million community members with COVID-19 and vaccine information through various interventions.
The project will ensure the nuns are empowered with information about COVID-19 and vaccines to disseminate to the communities they serve, communities are encouraged to embrace COVID-19 preventive measures and get vaccinated, and the sister-run facilities have improved equipment and medical supplies.
‘‘As AOSK, we applaud the Ministry of Health’s efforts in COVID-19 response and recognise that a successful war against the pandemic requires both public and private sector support in advocacy on the COVID-19 vaccine uptake, provision of essential medical supplies, provision of protective gears and behaviour change communication,’’ noted Sr.Pasilisa Namikoye, Executive Secretary, Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) at a workshop to sensitise administrators of the 80 health facilities on the campaign. ‘‘Catholic sisters‘ have always worked to improve and increase accessibility of basic healthcare to the most vulnerable in the communities. We would like to utilise our vast distribution across the country, direct engagement in the health sector and proximity to the masses to disseminate COVID-19 information to communities we serve and encourage vaccine uptake,’’ she further commented. This project complements the work of the Government in COVID-19 response in creating awareness about the pandemic and encouraging communities to protect themselves from infections by following the preventive measures and getting vaccinated.
On September 17th 2021, the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK) held an Antigen Rapid Diagnostic Testing (RDT) for COVID-19 training for 18 lab technicians working in sisters-run health facilities in Kenya.
The 18 were among 1,500 frontline health workers (including sisters) who are set to benefit from various trainings meant to build their capacity and knowledge on COVID-19 through the AOSK COVID-19 Awareness and Prevention Campaign.
The training, held at DIMESE Sisters offices in Karen, Nairobi was one of the project interventions to share COVID-19 related knowledge information with health workers. It followed a circular by the Ministry of Health on the use of Antigen RDT for COVID-19 after the World Health Organization (WHO) listed two SARS-COV-2 antigen tests that can be used for testing with appreciable accuracy.
During the training, Dr Joseph Karanja from the Ministry of Health took the trainees through the COVID-19 Antigen RDT Guideline that has been developed by the Ministry of Health to pave the way for the adoption of the use of COVID-19 antigen kits in Kenya. The guideline outlines the circumstances and the populations on which these tests can be used and also summarises interpretation of expected results. ‘‘SARS-CoV-2 Antigen RDT testing can be considered if there is widespread community transmission of COVID-19, the health system is overburdened, and it is not possible to test all suspected cases by molecular testing methods,’’ he said, adding that “A negative Antigen Test can not rule out an active COVID-19 infection.’’
Specifically, Antigen RDT is recommended in high prevalence settings such as ICU, isolation facilities, Accident and Emergency, super spreader events such as schools and colleges, prisons, gatherings such as religious and political events, and at prisons and remand. In low prevalence settings, it is used where there’s no access to RT PCR testing such as at the points of entry for arriving passengers if they have symptoms of COVID-19 and whose COVID-19 certificates have expired. It can also be used on special populations such as street families with symptoms or contact with a confirmed case. Prior to the entry of the Antigen RDT kits into the Kenyan market, the Ministry of Health entirely relied on PCR-based testing for diagnosis of suspected cases. PCR however remains the reference diagnostic test for COVID-19 and for now, and it is the only type of test acceptable for people who require a COVID-19 certificate before travel outside the country. Sister Regina Nthenya, Programme Manager, AOSK Health Networks Project noted that the training enabled the technicians, majority being from rural hospitals, to understand how to do the Antigen test, which is preferred in places where people can not access PCR test. ‘‘This training has also instilled in them confidence to test everyone, even those with COVID-19,’’ she said. The lab technicians expressed their gratitude for the training wth majority said they were more confident in collecting samples after taking part in demonstrations and a practical session. The AOSK COVID-19 campaign complements the work of the Government in COVID-19 response by creating awareness about the pandemic and preventive measures, including vaccination.