Ministry to partner with private sector to import Covid-19 vaccines

A doctor shows vials of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine [Reuters, Leonhard Foeger]

The private sector has finally been given a nod to import coronavirus vaccines.

Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) board chairperson Florah Mutai yesterday announced that they have been allowed to import a million doses through government agencies to pilot the partnership in vaccine procurement.

"We have committed to a million vaccines in the private sector where the government will purchase them on our behalf. This is just the beginning and we are willing to comply," said Mutai.

She further announced that the business Community will help in absorption of the vaccines as the battle against Covid-19 intensifies.

"We have committed to work hand in hand in rolling out vaccination to achieve herd immunity. The faster we achieve immunity the faster we go back to doing business and open up the economy," Mutai added.

Previously the cabinet Secretary for health Mutahi Kagwe had announced that no private entity would be involved in procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

The ban issued in March barred the importation, distribution and administration of Covid-19 vaccines by private enterprises for what health officials termed as potential risk of having counterfeit vaccines in the market.

The government had maintained that the private sector would only be allowed to join the vaccine roll-out plan in July after setting up a transparent and accountable system to ensure Public Health Safety as well protecting Kenyans from exploitation.

"There has been constrained economic activities and the approval to buy vaccines is a major boost for businesses. This move will help to self-police in terms of adhering to health protocols so as to avoid closing down the economy," said the chairperson.

The announcement came during the business community's press briefing on their commitment in safe business operations protocols to reduce virus spread that would necessitate total lockdown.

According to executive officer of Kenya National Chambers Of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Samuel Matonda, the vaccination exercise will help revamp the economy.

"For us to be healthy, there was a need to collaborate in buying vaccines. The first batch will be a pilot project before we increase the volumes through the guidance of the Ministry of Health," said Matonda.

The CEO said the private sector will be allowed to participate in the entire vaccination chain from procurement to administration.

Cabinet Secretary for Industrialisation, Trade and Development Betty Maina said the measures government put in place last year to support businesses are still in force such as preferential procurement of coronavirus preventive materials for local suppliers and manufacturers.

"The only thing that changed is reversing the tax holiday as announced early this year," said the CS.

The CS added that the business community pledge to battle the virus will reduce chances of more stringent closures.

Discovery of more variants and slow vaccine rollout process have resulted in the fourth wave.

 “Covid-19 is going to stay with us for an indeterminate future. Our action to mitigate the spread within the business environment is most important and is pivoted on adherence to  protocols. If we keep the infections under control, we shall be able to continue with our operations besides saving on medical expenses and loss of man hours,” said the CS.