When she drove into Mbagathi Hospital on Thursday morning, Barbara Nel, the Country President Africa cluster, AstraZeneca saw dozens of Kenyans were already in the queue waiting for the vaccine. However, at the gate, there was a notice indicating that there was no vaccine.
"This touched me, I saw an eager Kenyan, an African, who really want to protect him/herself yet the vaccines were not available, and this is the critical time that all African countries need to come together. Together, we shall win," she said.
The World Health Organizaton has warned that 47 out of 54 countries including Kenya are set to miss the September target of vaccinating 10 per cent of their populations unless Africa receives 225 million more doses.
The shortage is holding back the rollout of second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in most countries. Only seven countries in Africa are set to meet the target
In Kenya, over 1.2 million doses of vaccines have been administered across the country with about 991,184 Kenyans getting their first dose while 164,561 are fully vaccinated. Kenya had also received 100,000 donations of AstraZeneca from India, 72,000 from South Sudan The latter two returned their doses to Covax facility after running into problems beating the expiry deadlines in their countries.
The country is also expecting an additional 358,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine next week from Denmark government to boost its second round of inoculation amid the shortage of jabs. However, with the donation, more people have surpassed the 12 weeks timing and they are worried whether getting the second dose will be a possibility in the coming months
Saturday Nation Health reporter Angela Oketch interviewed Nel on AstraZenicahad, when the vaccine will be available in Kenya and other issues. Below are Excerpts.
Are we likely to extend the dosing intervals that has currently been adopted by Kenya to more than 12 weeks?
At the moment, Oxford University is working on the data to see whether we can extend the waiting period, however, regulatory authorities in Spain and Canada have already made the decision to extend the dosing intervals to more than 12 weeks.
We will follow the science and be patient and provide the information when necessary to the government of Kenya to provide Kenyans with the information.
Do you support the possibility of a vaccine mix now that countries including Kenya are experiencing shortage, are the ongoing studies on the possibility?
Once again we have to follow evidence based science, currently, the data states that if you got AstraZeneca vaccine as your first dose, then that's what you should get for the second dose.
However, there are a lot of ongoing studies looking at vaccine mix and in the next couple of months, we should probably have evidence around that.
What's the arrangement between Covax and AstraZeneca in ensuring that countries have surplus of the vaccine?
At the moment, countries are supplied through Covax, depending on the severity of the disease in the country, the number of people that have been vaccinated, the caseload, Covax then decides the quantity that is to be supplied to countries.
Covax depends on Serum Institute of India as the trusted partner for the supply of AstraZeneca vaccine, however, with the devastating second wave, they are no longer exporting, Kenyans are suffering what's the way forward?
They have committed in writing that as soon as the numbers have gone down and the situation improves, the export will happen again. What we are doing at the moment and because the situation is quite critical in Africa, we are now working closely with the countries that have high quantities of vaccines to donate in a way to serve as a bridging for the situation that we currently have at hand.
We are seeing more countries making donations coming to Kenya, Rwanda and Senegal. We are expecting more donations to Kenya from European countries in the coming weeks.
AstraZeneca is considered a number one option vaccine for many African countries, however, we are seeing a number of new variants which are not easily tamed by the vaccine, are there ongoing research to make it better to be able to tame the new variants?
The big variant of concern in Africa is the Indian (Delta). The variant has been repor5ted in almost 27 African countries including Kenya.
Earlier this week, data from public health inland, looking at the data of patients being vaccinated in the UK, shows that the vaccine provides 92 per cent protection against hospitalisation for people that are exposed to the Delta variant.
This is encouraging and it is good that more data is developing.