Kenya to run own Covid-19 vaccine plant by Easter next year

A nurse prepares vaccine to administer to a patient. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday announced establishment of Kenya Biovax Limited to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines.

He said this will end dependence on vaccine donations. The President directed the Ministry of Health to operationalise the facility for the eventual manufacturing of homespun doses by Easter of 2022.

“If there is anything, we have learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic is the essence of self-reliance. As the first step towards this goal, we have established a company to facilitate this venture in the name of Kenya Biovax Limited,” he said.

Uhuru further directed the National Treasury to allocate Sh3.2 billion for construction of 50 Level 3 hospitals.

This will enhance implementation of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which should be fully implemented by next year, according to the ministry’s plan.

Speaking during Mashujaa Day celebrations at Wang'uru Stadium in Kirinyaga County, the President further noted that the transformation of the health sector is one of the phenomenal testimonies of how we turned Covid-19 obstacles into opportunities.

He noted that in Nairobi, the government has constructed 15 level two and three hospitals in various informal settlements, through the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS).

Uhuru said another 15 facilities are under construction. 

The country’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity also increased by 502 per cent, from 108 to 651.

The hospital bed capacity increased by 47 per cent from 56,069 in 2013 to 82,291 across the country.

The President noted that the country’s oxygen capacity in public health facilities has been ramped up from 3 million liters a day in March 2020, to 32 million liters a day, by this month.

The laboratory testing capacity for Covid-19 has also improved, from one laboratory in March 2020, to 95.

“…at the beginning of the pandemic early last year, we used to ship our samples for testing in South Africa and the results turnaround time would be anything from five days onwards,” said the president.

He said diagnostic investments have strengthened the country’s health care system especially in response to the pandemic, which will propel the attainment of UHC, and future global health security challenges.

On devolution of the health sector, the president noted that the government has put in place a comprehensive nationwide programme to upgrade selected hospitals in all the 47 counties through provision of specialised, modern, state-of-the-art medical, diagnostic and critical care equipment.

“We have the Managed Equipment Services (MES) project, whose objective is to improve access to quality specialised healthcare services throughout the country,” he said.

Through the programme, the government identified and equipped 115 hospitals with various theatre equipment, 101 hospitals with radiological and imaging equipment, 14 facilities with ICU equipment and 54 facilities installed and commissioned renal equipment including dialysis machines.

“Through this massive investment, 628,821 people have benefited from theatre services, 385,587 people benefited from dialysis out of the 577 dialysis machines installed, 23,574 people benefited from ICU services and over 5.7 million people have been served using the 22 MRI machines, 214 X-ray machines, 83 CT scanners and 229 ultra-sound equipment since 2016,” he said.

According to the government, the heavy investment has benefited more than six million patients and saved Kenya Sh131.5 billion.