Kagwe calls for caution on new Covid vaccines

Thursday, November 19th, 2020 00:00 |
Researchers in a room where a sample of ChAdOx1 nCoV-2019 Oxford coronavirus vaccine is stored at Kemri-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kilifi. Two medical workers have already been vaccinated. Photo/PD/NDEGWA GATHUNGU

George Kebaso@Morarak

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe is calling for caution in the wake of global excitement over the recent unveiling of two Covid-19 vaccines by US drug manufacturers.

Addressing the press earlier this week, just days after he expressed reservations about the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine, Kagwe reiterated the government’s cautiousness towards the announcement of the second vaccine, Moderna.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine use a new approach to unlock the body’s immune defenses. 

“However, as Kenya, we will not be used as guinea pigs to test vaccines that are essentially not cleared, and those that we are not sure about,” he stated.

Kagwe said that despite the urgent need for a vaccine against the raging virus, the country must be careful not to fall prey to commercial gimmicks by companies out to rake in profits.

“Nobody would want us to succeed in getting a vaccine more than the Ministry of Health and the national government.

We want a vaccine like yesterday, however, we are also careful about these announcements, otherwise we will fall prey to commercial operations,” the CS cautioned.

In sentiments also echoed by acting Health director general, Dr Patrick Amoth, the CS said that Kenya is part of the global community that has been fighting for the vaccines to be made available to everybody, as soon as they have been proven.

“However, we will not swing into action before the World Health Organisation (WHO) makes an announcement on a vaccine that can be widely used,” he stated.

He said Kenya is also involved in an attempt to come up with a vaccine through the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) Wellcome Trust; in a bid to help save lives, but it has to be a step by step approach.

Efficacy and safety

“As a ministry and in consultation with experts in Kemri, and elsewhere, we are also studying all those inventions, to assess the possibility of adopting them in future. It is work in progress,” he said.

Kagwe added: “Those who are telling us about vaccines are the ones who will rush to condemn us when people start dying after the jab or when people develop serious side effects,” he added. 

On his part, Dr Amoth said that the two reports of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines despite showing high efficacy, are not peer reviewed.

“We want an independent review and the WHO to give its guidelines. Because the process is not at its tail end, which require a further two or three months of investigations before the vaccines are submitted for approval, we are a bit cautious,” he said adding that efficacy and safety are paramount.

 “Even if the vaccines become available, we will need to revamp our entire cold chain system to be able to accommodate them.

And even if they become available, the demand will be so high and therefore countries such as Kenya will be at the tail end of receiving the vaccines,” Amoth said. 

“We will continue to advocate for the public health social measures to be able to contain the virus,” said Amoth who also called on Kenyans to obey the public health protocols to also enable a safe re-opening of schools for all learners.

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