President Uhuru Kenyatta has flagged off the national distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Central Vaccine Depot in Kitengela, Kajiado County.
The first consignment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Kenya on Wednesday morning. The 1.02 million units were received by Health CS Mutahi Kagwe who was accompanied by Transport CS James Macharia, Health PS Susan Mochache and WHO Representative in Kenya, Dr. Rudi Eggers among others.
The vaccine, transported by UNICEF as part of the COVAX initiative, will be first administered to frontline health workers and those at risk.
The first group to receive the vaccine is health workers. They will be followed by other frontline workers including security forces and teachers, and then Kenyans with underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to coronavirus.
“Ours is to help these people to ensure we support them with enough doses, logistics until such time we have vaccinated our people or when we attain herd immunity … We will get more and more doses until we get the amount required.” said the President.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said one-dose vaccines are expected and vulnerable groups will be given priority.
“Once we vaccinated vulnerable groups, the rate of infection will be reduce,” he said.
President Uhuru said the government will ensure that the vaccine is made available to as many people as possible and at the most affordable rates.
“This is the beginning, not the end. And we have to ensure all Kenyans get the vaccine. And when we start, we still have this pandemic with us. Not that the vaccines are here life will go back to normal,” he said. “There is no single country that is able to be safe unless all of us at safe. We have an obligation to ensure the vaccines are made as widely available and as cheap as possible.”
The national vaccination campaign will kick off on Friday.
The next batch of vaccines is expected to arrive in the country at the end of March or early April.
The president urged Kenyans to refrain from spreading rumours and half-truths about the vaccine and COVID-19 in general.
“If you have any questions outside policy, with regard to execution and how it will be done, ask the experts. Let us not depend on rumours,” said President Uhuru. “Let us continue to follow the precautions given to us by the experts. We have to still wear masks, wash hands and continue social distancing because this illness is still with us. The most important is to prevent deaths.”
Kenya is working closely with the African Union to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“I will not talk of how other countries (Tanzania) are managing the disease. We are working as AU to see how we will deal with the pandemic. Our prayer is that the rest of the world will follow the lead. Every country has its government and leader. They will tell them what they have in store for them. As for me, we are ready to work with the rest of the continent to ensure we work to get rid of this disease, said President Uhuru.
Kagwe said the roll out is dependent on supply chain and how quickly the vaccine can be received from the suppliers.
“We plan as a ministry to get vaccines as quick a possible - if we get them faster then we can distribute it faster,” said Kagwe.
A total of 459,000 doses of the 1.02 million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines will be distributed to level six and level four hospitals.
Level six will get 33,000 doses, while the military facilities (level four) will get 21,000 doses.
The 459,000 will mark the first dose of the vaccine which has been found to be effective when one is issued with two doses. The two doses are to be administered at least eight weeks apart.
The rest 525,000 will be issued later as the second dose.
According to the vaccination plan, the first phase will target 1.25 million people, while phase two will target 9.76 million individuals above the age of 50 years and those with comorbidity.
At least 4.9 million people are factored in the third phase.