The national Covid-19 vaccination programme took a different turn last evening with Deputy President William Ruto going for Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine whose use and distribution the government had cautioned against.
Ruto released photos of himself and his wife Rachel Ruto getting vaccinated by a health worker days after he missed out of last Friday’s jab session at State House where President Uhuru Kenyatta led senior government officials in getting vaccinated.
Earlier in the day, the same health worker had vaccinated two prominent lawyers - Ahmednasir Abdullahi and Donald Kipkorir - with Sputnik V vaccine.
On Monday, the Russian embassy in Nairobi distanced itself from Covid-19 Sputnik V vaccine.
In his tweet, Ruto made reference to “vaccines” as opposed to “vaccine."
The Kenyan government has been championing the distribution, use, and access of AstraZeneca.
“Covid-19 vaccines are our safe and effective tools in saving lives and managing the disease. I encourage Kenyans to participate in this exercise to protect themselves against the pandemic. My family and I received the Covid-19 vaccination at the Karen Residence, Nairobi County,” Ruto tweeted.
His spokesman Emmanuel Tallam confirmed that Ruto had received the vaccine but he did not disclose which one. He described it as a “purely family affair taken in consideration of his function and profile as a DP.”
Ahmednasir made good his promise to become the first person in Kenya to publicly receive the Sputnik V jab. Ahmednasir and Kipkorir posted photos on their respective social media platforms of them getting vaccinated at what looked like the same location and by the same health worker.
“Today, I became the second Kenyan to take the Russian Covid-19 Sputnik V vaccine. I have full confidence in the vaccine to protect me from all Covid-19 variants," Kipkorir tweeted.
Afya House has been dithering on what action to take after reports emerged that the Pharmacy and Poisons Board had approved the emergency use of the vaccine. It later appeared that the National Vaccine Task Force may not have been aware of the approval.
Last week, Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi warned that Sputnik was not yet authorised to be administered on Kenyans.
Afya House mandarins also started questioning the wisdom of going full-blown commercial on a vaccine as important as one for the coronavirus.
Questions of pricing, affordability, equal access as well as the void created by the poor rollout of the GOK vaccination programme also cropped up.
“A technical agreement stipulating the responsibilities of all the parties involved in the distribution is yet to be submitted to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.
"What this means is that the vaccine has therefore not received all the necessary regulatory approvals for use in the country,” she said last Thursday.
Mwangangi even claimed the Sputnik V vaccine was not even available in Kenya.
On the same day, Mwangangi was speaking, an organisation calling itself Russian Direct Investment Fund wrote to the Cabinet Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe making a pitch for Sputnik V.
They copied the letter to the director of health products and technologies at the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.
They gave a history of the clinical trials concluding that a single dose immunisation in 100 per cent of the subjects (30 in total) developed a cellular immune response against the S protein of SArs-cOv-2.
“Sputnik component 1 Covid-19 vaccine potentially may reduce the burden of severe disease with only one immunisation. The single-dose regiment solves the challenge of reaching group immunity in a shorter time frame,” the letter signed by the director of healthcare sector, Nina Kandelaki said.
On Monday, Russian Embassy distanced itself from the vaccine saying it had been imported into the country by a private entity on commercial basis.
“The Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Kenya hereby underlines that it is the obligation of private importers to strictly follow all the regulations of the Kenyan authorities and act in compliance with the legislation of the Republic of Kenya,” the embassy said.
They also directed all questions relating to the vaccine to the importer.