Dr Tanya, an assistant professor in Paediatrics Infectious Disease at Mt Sinai and daughter of Prof Kama Rogo receives her Covid [Moderna] vaccine in New York City. [Courtesy]

The first shipments of the Covid-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in Kenya in the next 45 days.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said on Friday Kenya anticipates deliveries of the coronavirus vaccines to start at the end of this month or mid-next month as the country assess its range of vaccine options.

“We have ordered vaccines. We are hoping that the vaccines will be here by the end of January or up to the second week of February,” said Kagwe.

The Health CS further said Kenya had developed protocols that would guide how the jabs would be given and that frontline medical workers would be given priority.

Not compulsory

“We have a system to indicate who will be first to get the vaccines,” Kagwe said, further revealing that vaccination would not be compulsory.

The government intends to start the inoculations with the healthcare workers, police officers, teachers and students, Kagwe explained.

While no firm date of delivery for the tranche of vaccines was given, the news offers a glimmer of hope to a country brought to its knees by the ravaging respiratory disease as numbers of infections and deaths continue to rise.

Kagwe said the country was also in discussion with Synopharm in China in its quest to get vaccines.

“We are looking at all the other vaccines that have been approved within the World Health Organisation (WHO) so that we will not be relying only on one type of vaccine.”

The ideal thing to do, said Kagwe, would be to use several vaccines so that the efficacy chances would be higher.

Among the options that the Ministry of Health is considering is the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine. Kenya, through the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), has been collaborating with Oxford and the vaccine trial is currently ongoing at the Kemri-Wellcome Trust Research Programme facility in Kilifi.

Just last week, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the UK.

Kenya has ordered 24 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is preferred over other approved vaccines, for its ease in distribution because it does not require special refrigerators.

Kenya is among 92 low and middle-income countries and economies that will be able to access Covid-19 vaccines through the Covax scheme, which is run under WHO.

The scheme guarantees developing nations an equal opportunity to access the vaccines regardless of income level. Through Covax, countries such as Kenya expect a share of at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses of approved vaccines this year.

Covax has ordered 470 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, 500 million of the Janssen and 200 million of the Sanofi, according to a platform run by Duke University, which is tracking the orders for the vaccines.

Vaccinate programme

Kenya is seeking some 24 million doses through this programme to vaccinate about 20 per cent of the population. Kenya made its application to Covax on December 7.

Some countries in Africa such as Egypt have negotiated bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers in China.

Egypt received the first batch of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine on December 10. The vaccine was developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group, Sinopharm.

Unicef, which is coordinating the delivery of the vaccines under Covax, is recruiting a consultant whose job will be, among others, assessing Kenya’s preparedness to handle the virus.

The consultant will review relevant documents, tools and materials on Covax vaccine, including the vaccine readiness assessment tool to understand the local context and preparations towards vaccine introduction.