Is Kenya ready to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine?

Posted by on 21st December 2020

Categories:   Uncategorised

There has been a lot of concern about the Covid-19 vaccines that are out in the global market. In Kenya, the greatest concern has been its efficiency if the discussion about the vaccine over the past few months is anything to go by.

The Kenya CoV-19 vaccine, being trialled in Kilifi County by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), is said to protect over 70% of people who use it from catching the deadly virus. The results are in conjunction with trials that were conducted in Brazil and the United Kingdom. So far, Kenya has ordered 24 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine which would be enough to cover approximately 20% of the country’s population. Last week the Ministry of Health submitted its request to the global vaccine alliance Gavi and confirmed the doses will cost Kenya a total of Ksh 10 billion. This is the approximated cost also by Gavi, who says each dose will cost about $3 (Ksh320).

Gavi has stated that the amount is already heavily discounted through donations from a number of developed countries, organizations such as the World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Foundation, among others. The Vaccine Alliance helps vaccinate almost half the world’s children against deadly and debilitating infectious diseases. In the face of the unprecedented pandemic, Gavi is working with countries to support their Covid-19 response and to maintain and restore routine immunization. The Alliance is co-leading efforts on equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

On the other hand, AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical firm, and Oxford University have jointly developed a Covid-19 vaccine. The company expects to sell the vaccine at about Sh327 ($3) a dose, according to reported agreements between the firm and governments and international health organizations. The other vaccines from Pfizer will cost about Sh2,180 ($20) a dose while Moderna’s is priced between Sh 1,635 ($15) to Sh 2,725 ($25). However, all these three vaccines must be approved by regulators before they are administered.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe told the Nation last week that the government has not made a commitment to take any vaccines. On the other hand, Health Director-General Patrick Amoth, in an interview with the Nation, said Kenya could easily enter into a bilateral partnership with Astra Zeneca to get more doses. A better turnout of events for Kenya, which has been sitting on the sidelines after it emerged that the logistical nightmare of handling the first two vaccines announced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were out of reach for the country.

Even as the country lines up with the rest to receive the vaccines next year, in countries like the United Kingdom, the NHS is currently offering the Covid-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus. The vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and, soon after, hundreds of local vaccination centres run by hospital general practitioners.

There are concerns that the vaccine may not be readily available to all Kenyans when it arrives in the country. Currently, there is a huge divide in terms of access to healthcare between the affluent and the poor in society. The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) is not providing insurance for persons infected with Covid-19, despite the monthly contributions given by those under the scheme. Further, there has also been the national issue that frontline healthcare workers do not have access to the requisite medical care and necessary medical protective equipment leading to the tragic loss of lives and healthcare workers.

Bearing this in mind, even as Kenya gears towards receiving the vaccine, the Ministry of Health should consider a necessary and in-depth look into current health systems in the country. Firstly, those implicated in the KEMSA scandal should be arrested and arraigned in court immediately for their negligent and corrupt actions. Secondly, equal distribution of PPEs and other critical medical equipment to all counties should take place as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary loss of lives. This should also go hand in hand with fair remuneration of our healthcare workers. Finally, there should be a provision for NHIF to cover Covid-19 related cases especially with regards to testing and thereafter, treatment.