Kenya: Over 9 Counties Targeted in Covid-19 Vaccine Recall Plan

A Covid-19 vaccine dose (file photo).

At least nine counties could be targeted in the upcoming Covid-19 vaccine recall by the national government.

This is based on the latest immunisation report showing that the said counties have used less than half of the doses they received.

According to the latest Covid-19 immunisation report dated May 7, Garissa, Marsabit, Lamu, Mandera, Turkana, Wajir, Kwale, Isiolo, and Tana River counties have used less than 60 per cent of the doses they received two months ago.

For instance, Wajir received 6,000 doses but has used up 2,160 only.

Similarly, Marsabit, which received 2,760 doses has utilised 674, while Mandera with 6,000 doses has administered only 2,411.

Redistribute jabs

On Friday, the Ministry of Health announced the plan to recall the jabs and redistribute them to prevent expiry and wastage.

"We are going to take back vaccines that are lying idle in counties due to slow uptake and distribution. We cannot afford to have the jabs expire in our stores," Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said Friday, adding that they will be dispatched to other counties.

Mr Kagwe, however, did not disclose when the recall will happen but most of the vaccines are scheduled to expire in June.

While some counties have used less than half of the vaccines allocated to them, others have reportedly held on their stocks to administer the second dose.

WHO modelling

The World Health Organisation (WHO) modelling suggests that vaccinating more people in the highest priority population groups with one dose as opposed to vaccinating half that number with two doses will substantially reduce death rates.

"We know that there are some counties holding onto the second doses," Dr Willis Akhwale, chairman of the Covid-19 vaccines deployment and vaccination task force told the Nation Sunday.

The total number of people vaccinated to date is 915,968, with the majority (56 per cent) being male.

Since the start of the vaccination in March 8 to date, Nairobi region has received 393,000 doses, Eldoret 129,000, Nakuru 117,000, Kisumu 108,000, Nyeri 84,000, Kakamega 81,000, Mombasa 66,000, Meru 39,000, Garissa and Mandera 25,000, KDF 48,000 and Afya House 9,000 doses.

According to data on vaccine deployment, about 1,099,000 doses had been distributed by May 7, with a balance of 21,000 doses at the Kitengela central store.

However, despite using 75 per cent of the vaccines, 278,100 doses remained unused across the country, the MoH Covid-19 immunisation report shows.

Like many countries dependent on the United Nations backed Covax facility whose supply has been dogged by vaccine nationalism and hoarding, Kenyan officials do not know when or where the next shipment of doses will come from.

Covax

"We have not yet signed any bilateral agreement with any manufacturer. It's important to note that costs under bilateral agreements may be much higher than through Covax. We look forward to their local registration and availability through Covax and AU mechanisms," said Dr Akhwale.

Kenya is among 192 countries signed up to Covax, which aims to supply doses for at least 20 per cent of countries' populations.

The country was to receive 3.6 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines between February and May.

However, the ongoing Covid-19 crisis in India has hampered production and export of doses from the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest manufacturer.

WHO Friday announced authorisation of emergency use of a Covid-19 vaccine made by China's Sinopharm.

This made it the first non-Western vaccine to gain WHO emergency use approval.

"This afternoon, WHO gave an emergency use listing to sign off on Beijing's Covid-19 vaccine, making it the sixth vaccine to receive WHO validation for safety, efficacy and quality," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The WHO had already given such approval to vaccines developed by BioNTech-Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.

The Sinopharm vaccine is produced by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, subsidiary of China National Biotec Group (CNBG).

Accelerate vaccine access

"The addition of this vaccine has the potential to rapidly accelerate Covid-19 vaccine access for countries seeking to protect health workers and populations at risk," said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Health Products.

"We urge the manufacturer to participate in the Covax facility and contribute to the goal of more equitable vaccine distribution."

The WHO listing means the Sinopharm vaccine could eventually be included into the Covax initiative in the coming weeks or months and provided to poorer countries through the UN mechanism.

"This expands the list of vaccines that Covax can buy and gives countries confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval and to import and administer a vaccine."

Reported prices for the inoculation from the Chinese government-backed company Sinopharm range from Sh1,960 ($18.50) per shot in Senegal to Sh4,739 ($44) inside China to up to Sh7,681 ($72.50) a dose.

WHO's Emergency Use Listing (EUL) is a prerequisite for Covax facility vaccine supply. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer Covid-19 vaccines.

emerab@ke.nationmedia.com

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