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Kenya, poor nations to get jab from India

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy GATONYE GATHURA | 3 months ago
By GATONYE GATHURA | 3 months ago

 

Vials of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine before being packaged in a lab at the Serum Institute of India. The institute will make a billion doses for poor countries. [Reuters]

The approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in India yesterday also marked the start of the manufacture of the jab for Kenya and other developing countries.

In a deal with Astra Zeneca, the Serum Institute of India (SII) will manufacture one billion doses for sale to poor countries at no profit.

Another 300 million doses of the vaccine, called Covidshield in India, will be made available to the Covax facility, which is assisting poor countries to access Covid-19 jabs.

Kenya has applied for 24 million free doses and an additional for-pay 12 million doses through the Covax facility.

Initial reports from Covax indicate Kenya will get doses to cover 1.4 million individuals by June and the rest of the 24 million doses in the second half of this year. The 12 million for-pay doses will be delivered as they become available in 2022.

The UK, which approved the AstraZeneca vaccine last week, has committed about Sh82 billion (£548 million) to the Covax facility.

“This will go towards helping developing countries access vaccines, including the Oxford/AstraZeneca candidate,” the British High Commission in Nairobi told The Standard in an email.

These doses will mainly come from SII, which is the world’s biggest vaccines manufacturer by volume, producing about 1.5 billion doses of various inoculants annually.

“We are ready to roll-out in the coming weeks,” tweeted SII’s chief executive Adar Poonawalla after the approval on Sunday morning.

But Poonawalla said SII will prioritise India first before distributing to other countries. “It's very important we take care of our country first, then go on to Covax and then other bilateral deals.”

He also said for export, the vaccine must have been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and licensed in importing countries.

AstraZeneca vaccine is yet to receive these approvals with Pfizer the only Covid-19 candidate approved by WHO.

Sensing delays, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Mutahi Kagwe says Kenya is also negotiating with Pfizer of the US and Sinopharm of China. “We are looking at all the vaccines that have been approved by the World Health Organisation,” Kagwe said, which then would imply the Pfizer vaccine.

Earlier, Dr Collins Tabu, head of immunisation at the Ministry of Health indicated that while they preferred the AstraZeneca vaccine, Kenya has limited capacity to store vaccines such as Pfizer’s, which require refrigeration.

WHO has cautioned poor countries that it might be hard to monitor the side effects from Pfizer’s and Moderna vaccines that are using new technologies.

Market data shows Sinopharm as the best bet for Kenya with less demand than supply compared to Astra Zeneca, Novavax, Jansen & Jansen, Pfizar, Sanofi/GSK, Moderna and Sputnik-V; all which report higher demand than supply.

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