Kenya will receive its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines early tomorrow, a big boost to its battle to contain the spread of the pandemic.
The 1.02 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses set to arrive from Serum Institute of India are part of 24 million doses Nairobi had ordered to vaccinate 20 per cent of its population.
The shipment expected to be flown in by Emirates Airline, a key carrier for the Gavi-led Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) facility, will touch down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) at 00:05am Wednesday.
Once the 1,500-kilos consignment is offloaded, there will be a lot of paperwork and clearances to be done tomorrow morning before the vaccines are loaded and shipped to Kitengela, the government's main vaccine depot.
With this development, Kenya has now joined more than 10 other countries that have so far received their consignments of Covid-19 jabs through the Covax facility amid stiff competition from developed nations that have ordered billions of doses.
Other African countries that have so far received the vaccines are South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Ethiopia among others.
For Kenyans, the good news is the vaccine is here. But hold your horses-- not everyone is on the priority list.
First, the country will start with its official launch of the vaccination drive on Friday at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH)
The Nation understands that at KNH, the first Kenyan will officially receive the jab as a roll-out plan is unveiled.
"We have been training 400 health workers drawn from all the counties, who will be administering the jab. They will conclude their training on Thursday with a dry-run of what they will be doing after which we may have the first person being vaccinated by Friday," a member of Covid-19 vaccine taskforce at the Health ministry told the Nation in confidence yesterday.
"We did not want them to train early and wait for too long. We want them to start off with the vaccine roll-out when they are still fresh from class."
Dr Willis Akhwale, Kenya's coronavirus vaccine taskforce chair, confirmed that plans were in motion and that priority would be given to frontline health workers.
Those vaccinated, he said, will be expected to take a second dose after eight weeks, adding that "those in phase one will not be charged, but moving forward the cost of being vaccinated could be as low as Sh200".
Frontline healthcare workers, who have been the top vulnerable group, will be the first to receive the jab after last month's Cabinet decision affirmed the move.
The others in consideration will be security personnel and teachers, vulnerable persons, and hospitality sector workers.
Last week, Kenya signed an indemnification agreement relieving the manufacturer of the jabs (Serum Institute India) from any liability if something unintentionally goes wrong with their vaccines.
The vaccine, which remains viable under temperatures of between 2-8 degrees, is recommended in two doses (0.5 ml) given intramuscularly-- happening inside a muscle or put into a muscle.
The WHO recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks between the doses.
"If the second dose is inadvertently administered less than four weeks after the first, the dose does not need to be repeated," Interim recommendations for use of the AstraZeneca vaccine read in part.
It is understood that the vaccines arriving tomorrow will form part of the government 1.25 million target by end of June, in its first phase of the vaccination drive.
The second phase is expected to run from July 2021 to June next year, targeting close to 10 million Kenyans mostly above 50 years, and those above 18 years but with underlying health conditions.
The country's third phase of vaccination is expected to run from as early as next year targeting a further five million Kenyans, but subject to availability of vaccines, a plan by the Health ministry shows.
By Leon Lidigu, Elizabeth Merab and Allan Olingo