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Covid-19 vaccine expected in Kenya next month

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A consignment of the Covid-19 vaccine is expected in Kenya next month, with the first beneficiaries being groups at high risk of contracting the virus.

Health workers, police officers, the elderly and teachers will be the first to receive the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine to be made available in the first quarter of next year, the government said on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health added that people who come into contact with crowds and those with two or more medical conditions will be the first to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

It estimates that the first batch of the recipients will cover 20 per cent of the country’s population.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said Kenya has ordered 24 million doses of the vaccine as the government also explores ways of partnering with Chinese organisations that have developed Covid-19 jabs.

He said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is far cheaper and is easier to store compared to the others. 

Mr Kagwe said it is also easy to distribute.

“The ministry and the Kenya Medical Research Institute are carrying out tests. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored in an ordinary fridge, unlike the Pfizer one, which has to be kept in extremely cold temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius,” Mr Kagwe told the Nation.

Health Director-General Patrick Amoth said the ministry submitted its proposal to the World Health Organization’s Covax programme by December 7.

“The first 24 million doses, which will be for free, are from Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi). We have set aside another Sh10 billion to cover an additional 10 per cent of the population,” Dr Amoth said. 

The ministry in an earlier statement said additional funds can be drawn from domestic resources and/or multilateral development partners such as the World Bank to support the cost-sharing contributions.

Gavi has supported Kenya with more than Sh25 billion vaccines and injection devices and Sh4 billion in direct cash since 2001.

Most vulnerable people

According to Gavi, a dose of the vaccine procured through Covax, will go for $7 (Sh700).
Covax is the main global programme for vaccinating people against the virus in poor and middle income countries.

It aims to deliver at least two billion vaccine doses to 20 per cent of the most vulnerable people in 91 countries – mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America – by the end of 2021. Kenya is part of the programme. 

Covax will rely on cheaper vaccines that have not yet been approved instead of those from frontrunners Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that use more expensive mRNA technology. 

Pfizer vaccine has been approved for emergency use in several countries and deployed in Britain and the US. The Moderna vaccine is expected to be approved soon.

Covax has reached non-binding supply agreements with AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sanofi for 400 million doses, with options to order hundreds of millions of others. 

Mr Kagwe said the ministry is training health workers and the team that will distribute the vaccines once they land in Kenya.

“A team has been formed to work on logistics and training of staff who will handle the vaccines. We are lucky to be involved in several vaccine programmes,” the minister said.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi said 49 million people will get two doses per individual at first.

She said 1.2 million health workers will be vaccinated, some 5.2 million elderly people and 1.4 million of people with medical conditions. 

“The rationale for the priority target populations is aligned with WHO recommendations and roadmap for prioritising uses of Covid-19 vaccines in the context of limited supply. It has been adapted through consideration of local Covid-19 data,” she said.

Dr Mwangangi said the vaccination will utilise existing mechanisms, adding that it will be offered at hospitals by qualified clinicians, and supplemented with targeted outreach at community level.

Source: Daily Nation

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