21-04-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
After it became clear that India would not be able to send the second batch of AstraZeneca vaccines due to be shipped to its citizens in June, Kenya's Ministry of Health has decided to unlock the possibility of receiving doses from other companies that have offered special prices for developing countries.
Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson will be the companies from which Kenya will buy the next vaccines, after the Indian export ban. In March, Nairobi received the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccine doses produced under licence by the Serum Institute in Dehli, 1 million paid by the Gavi Foundation under the Covax programme and 100,000 donated directly by the Indian Government. At the same time, it had ordered another 2.5 million under an international loan, in accordance with the World Health Organisation's indication to vaccinate at least 15% of the nation by the end of the year and all 25 million adults by June 2022.
It is not yet known when the two alternative vaccines to AstraZeneca will be available, but more importantly when India will resume exporting them, being 90 million doses behind.
What is worrying are the recalls for the approximately 730,000 Kenyans and foreign residents who have already been vaccinated. In recent days, the Director General of Health, Patrick Amoth, had declared that the expected time for the second dose would be lengthened from 8 weeks to 12 weeks.
Meanwhile the head of Kenya's Vaccine Task Force, Dr Willis Akhwale, announced that they are working to get Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson through the Africa CDC organisation but also negotiating directly with the pharmaceutical companies.
With Pfizer through Africa CDC we are well advanced," Akhwale admitted, "and we hope to have them soon, while with Johnson & Johnson there will probably be availability later this year. Any other vaccine can become readily available, as long as it is first approved by the World Health Organisation, then registered locally as well," he said.
According to Akwhale, Pfizer is ideal for Kenya, because it is also recommended for children under 16 years of age, who are considered major spreaders of the virus.
The government is now expected to take the official step, as Minister Mutahi Kagwe had blocked the purchase of any vaccine other than AstraZeneca, which had obtained authorisation for emergency use in Kenya, after the same had initially been done for Russia's Sputnik.
Kagwe will have to give the go-ahead for the release of the other vaccines and decide whether private facilities, laboratories and hospitals will also be able to purchase and administer them officially.
As for the booster vaccines, we are looking at the Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, which seems to be compatible and which, like Sinovac which is instead of the RNA type, has been assessed with confidence by an initial analysis of experts from the OM. Both will probably be approved by the end of this month.
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