COVID-19 Vaccines Import Ban: The Government of Kenya, moving to take control of Coronavirus vaccination, has banned the importation and administration of COVID-19 vaccine by private organizations. The National Emergency COVID-19 Response Committee says this is geared at enhancing confidence and accountability in the ongoing government vaccination process.
All licenses issued to private institutions for the importation of the vaccines have thus been suspended until further notice, the Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe announced on 2nd April, throwing private entities that had committed funds to the initiative into a spin and leaving a huge population of Kenyans at the mercy of government. “The participation of the private sector in the vaccination exercise now threatens the gains made in the fight against Covid-19 across the country,” Mr Kagwe said said.
The ban has been informed by a number of emerging issues such as prevention of future distribution of counterfeit vaccines, which could prove disastrous. Being a matter of life and death, vaccines are a lucrative businesses that would have seen an invasion of unscrupulous players who would prioritize profit over health.
The Government’s move to suspend the licenses came after a private entity imported Russian vaccine Sputnik V on a commercial basis. The vaccine was being administered in private hospitals, at the cost of Ksh11,000 for the required two doses, which is seen as prohibitive for a country caught up in a ferocious third wave of infections.
Last week, the Sputnik 5 vaccine was authorised for use by the Pharmacy and Prisons Board. Kenya is importing around four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through Covax, which is only enough to vaccinate two million people from a population of nearly 50 million.
The efficacy of the Sputnik vaccine is around 91% according to a recent article in the British Medical Journal which is better than AstraZeneca’s. The main problem with the Sputnik vaccine is that there are not enough production facilities. Some observers say the government should let those who can afford the vaccine get it from hospitals.
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The Pharmacy and Prisons Board, however, clarified that the Government had not made an order for the vaccine but acknowledged the vaccine had been imported by a private company. Those who had received the Russian jab will still get their second dose from the available stock.
The private sector has been accused of going against the emergency authorisation use guidelines, including a prohibition on advertising their vaccines.
Kenya was the 10th African nation to Sputnik use, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Sputnik V has a 91.6% efficacy and provides full protection against severe cases of the illness. The vaccines can be stored at 2 Celsius to 8 Celsius, meaning they don’t require additional cold-chain infrastructure, the fund said this month.
Kenya has received a total of 1.1 million AstraZeneca Plc doses from the Covax initiative and a consignment donated by the Indian government. About 131,000 of the shots have been administered.