Uhuru to flag off distrubtion Covid vaccine

Thursday, March 4th, 2021 08:58 | By
Airport officials offload the first consignment of the Covid-19 Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine at JKIA. PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

President Uhuru Kenyatta is this morning expected to officially launch the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine to public hospitals across the country.

The ceremony, to be held at the central vaccine store in Kitengela, comes a day before the Head of State officially inaugurates the national vaccination campaign against Coronavirus at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Nairobi.

Sources at Afya House, the Ministry of Health headquarters, told People Daily yesterday that the President will lead a section of his Cabinet members and highranking Government officials to take the Covid-19 jab as a show of confidence in the drug.

From Kitengela, the doses loaded in specially-designed trucks would be distributed to regional centres in Meru, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nyeri, Nairobi and Garissa.

By close of business tomorrow, the doses are expected to have reached all Level Five county hospitals.

“For Nairobi, we expect KNH to have its share by midday today and should, therefore, start administering the exercise by Friday morning. We have to move very fast so that the country can have herd immunity as soon as possible,” said Dr Willis Akhwale, chairman of the task force on Covid-19 deployment and vaccination.

For the first two weeks in Nairobi, the vaccine will be administered only at KNH and thereafter; two more facilities could be added, subject to availability of doses.

The government has scheduled Monday as the official day to roll out the exercise in all selected hospitals across the country. According to a Ministry of Health work ing document, the vaccine rollout will be done in three phases.

The first phase will involve 1.25 million people and runs between March and June, while phase two will begin in July and end in June 2022, targeting the most vulnerable, including the elderly and those above 18 years suffering from two or more conditions simultaneously.

This phase targets 9.76 million people. The final phase will focus on other vulnerable groups of people aged 18 years and above in congregations, hospitality and the tourism industry. This will run between July 2022 and June 2023. It targets 4.9 million people. Akhwale says after the county level five hospitals, the vaccines will be distributed to level three and two hospitals in phases.

Dose quantity

“This is expected to happen by the end of the month. The quantity of doses to be distributed to each would be hinged on the number of healthcare givers in the facility,” Akhwale disclosed.

He described the planning and logistics involved to ensure the vaccine’s arrival in the country, the distribution and administration as “massive”.

The country received 1.020 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday morning in the first batch from the World Health Organisation sponsored Covax initiative that was created to ensure low-and middle-income countries get fair access to the drugs.

Speaking at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where he led senior government officials to receive the consignment, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe expressed excitement and optimism that “the vaccine would help stop the spread of the virus that has forced the country to partially lock down its economy”.

The lockdown has led to massive job losses, closure of companies, disruption of normal lifestyles and travels and severely devastated the economy.

“We have been fighting the pandemic with rubber bullets but what we have acquired today is equiva lent, metaphorically speaking, to bazookas and machine guns,” a visibly excited Kagwe told journalists.

Stressing that the vaccine would only be administered to those who volunteer to receive it, Kagwe disclosed that at least 400,000 healthcare workers are expected to receive the jab, with the rest going to frontline workers such as teachers and police officers.

And yesterday, in an interview with the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Dr Akhwale waded into the controversy over pricing of the drug as he maintained that vaccinations in public hospitals would be free.

Though the drugs cost between 32-38 US dollars (Sh4,000) on the world market, some donors and wealthy countries had joined hands to make it cheaper through subsidies. This had reduced the price of the drug to about five US dollars (Sh500).

“When you add on the transport costs, the figure comes to about seven dollars (Sh700). But as far as we are concerned, the drug is going to be administered free of charge in government hospitals. Nobody should be charged,” Dr Akhwale stated.

He warned Kenyans to be wary of unscrupulous individuals who may come up with fake drugs in the market.

“All Covid-19 vaccines have not been approved anywhere in the world for market use. They are only supposed to be administered under the supervision of governments and so anybody you come across purporting to sell any concoction related to Covid-19 is outrightly fake,” the medic warned.

Several researchers Akhwale remained optimistic over the success of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, given the fact that Kenya was one of the countries where trials on the drug were done.

Several researchers have confirmed that the AstraZeneca vaccine would be effective with the variant of the coronavirus in the country.

“The issue of safety and effectiveness is something that has been fully addressed. There is nothing for anybody to fear,” Akhwale told People Daily yesterday.

On claims by the Council of Governors that they were sidelined in the planning of the vaccine rollout, the medic insisted they were fully involved in the entire exercise, and cited Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, who participated in most of their meetings as the chairman of the CoG Committee on Health.

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