The government of Kenya has decried the inequalities in the availability, access, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as the numbers stand at
166,000 confirmed positive about 114,000 recoveries and 3000 deaths since the pandemic was first reported.
While speaking at a Ministry of Health Annual Commonwealth health ministers meeting (CHMM) 2021 held on Friday 21st May 2021, the country’s Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe said; “We are currently at what we believe to be the tail end of the third wave of the pandemic. Chair, fellow Ministers, we note with concern inequalities in the availability, access and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.”
“Whereas we acknowledge with gratitude the COVAX Facility, which was intended to finance access to vaccines in developing countries, we recognise that this benefit has not been realised due to the global shortage of supplies and the unfortunate situation in India, coupled with an unfortunate emergence of vaccine nationalism,” he added
According to the CS, Kenya was to receive 24 million doses of the vaccine at a cost of USD 3.6M, through the COVAX facility, and had set 3 aside her own resources to procure an additional 10 million doses. However, so far, the country has only received 1 million doses.
“We are of the opinion that there is a great and urgent need to redirect these funds to other vaccine manufacturers with capacity to supply us with the vaccines. Specifically, Johnson and Johnson would be the best alternative since it comes with the added advantage of being a single dose regime and hence reducing logistical challenges. Secondly, we urge that COVAX and Gavi fast track the redistribution of unused Astra Zeneca dozes to countries that are able to use them quickly, to avoid expiry of vaccines while many people in the world need them,” said Kagwe
Kagwe was also of the opinion that, the vaccines and medicines production approval system should be re-designed to create a level playing field in processing applications for World Health Organisation prequalification even as the country ensures quality.
There is also need for a paradigm shift: to have an approach that provides technical assistance and facilitates production of quality products in the African countries. This will promote local and regional production in its various 4 forms be it contractual, form and fill, or even full manufacturing.
“At country level, we all need to rethink our taxation and duty regimes to create an enabling environment that preferentially supports local manufacturers to compete fairly with importers, since access to health products is not only a health measure but a national security issue. I wish to emphasise the importance of sharing knowledge, best practices, innovations and other resources across the Commonwealth, to ensure efficacy and equitable access to quality medicines and vaccines,” he said
“We also call for continued investment to strengthen health systems, surveillance, diagnostics, health information systems, healthcare services, the health workforce, health research, security of commodities, management and access to essential medicines and vaccines, to safeguard against negative effects of any potential future pandemics and health security emergencies. 5 Finally, I wish to remind us that In this Covid-19 pandemic no Nation will be safe alone, the world can only be safe together,” he concluded
The Republic of Kenya reported its first case of COVID-19 on 12th March 2020.