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Last month, the Kenyan funerals company that makes John Covid coffin lids confirmed that the brand is sold out of the deceased lover’s heart-shaped caskets for a second year in a row.
This comes at a time when many in the Eastern African country say the vaccination rates are lower than expected amid this year’s diphtheria outbreak.
“It is now at higher incidence compared to previous years,” said Esther Ochieng, head of disease prevention, and outreach and information at the National Diphtheria, Tetanus and Haemophilus influenza, or DTaH and Hib, vaccination campaign.
About 2,500 people were expected to be vaccinated last month in the coastal city of Mombasa, but only 1,500 showed up, according to the WHO.
“Even our vendors haven’t been turning up because they’re afraid,” said Awad Awad, spokesman for the Eldoret Institute of Technology, a funeral services provider in Kenya’s Rift Valley province.
The rising number of diphtheria cases in Kenya is far from a cause for alarm, according to the WHO, which says there have been 79 cases of diphtheria in the Kenyan health system since the beginning of the year.
Still, the number is “very high in comparison to the national average of just under six cases in a given year,” said Phil Timperley, head of global information for the WHO, in an email to CNN.
Though diphtheria typically requires only six doses of vaccine, the current shortage has reduced the number of vaccinations being offered.