Kenya may get unused 1.3m jabs from Congo

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021 00:00 |
Patrick Nyaga, Kiambu Health Chief Officer is vaccinated against Covid-19 at Thika Level Five Hospital recently. Looking on is Health CEC Joseph Murega. Photo/PD/FILE

George Kebaso @Morarak

Some of the 1.3 million doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine the Democratic Republic of Congo is surrendering back to the Covax facility may land in Kenya, a senior Government official has revealed.

With Kenya staring at a likely delay in commencement of round two of the vaccination programme, this latest revelation is good news for those who took the first jab in early March.

 Yesterday, the senior Ministry of Health official who sought anonymity confirmed the good news, saying Kenya is not sure of the tentative date when the Covax facility will be replenished with the next consignment.

“Even though we do not know when the Covax platform is going to receive the next batch of vaccines, we have hopes that something is in the pipeline.

We are actually expecting additional vaccines from DR Congo,” the official said even as Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe continues to assure the country of arrival of vaccines within the 12-week window period in time for the second dose.

Vital dosages

Chair of the national Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment Task Force, Dr  Willis Akhwale, last evening confirmed that Kenya is engaging a number of African countries, which are sharing vaccines that are at the verge of expiry.

“African countries are sharing vaccines that are about to expire, and yes, Kenya is in discussion with a number of them in order to acquire the jabs a head of the resumption of vaccinations to cover the second and vital dosages,” he told People Daily. 

He could not, however, disclose the quantity of vaccines expected to hit the country’s cold stores, and when they are expected in the country.  He chose only to indicate that this will be disclosed when all the details have been put down on paper. 

“It should be soon,” he said, explaining further, “because we want to use them for the administration of the second dose.”

At the end of last month, it emerged that DRC is returning 1.3 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to the Covax Facility and the United Nations Children Fund after determining it can’t administer them before they expire in June.  Kagwe and ministry  officials have previously confirmed that the vaccine’s shelf life would not go beyond June 28.

The West African country received 1.7 million doses through Covax in early March. But the government decided to pause its rollout after the suspension of the vaccine’s use by several European countries due to concerns over blood clots.

Rare risks

But after the European Medicines Agency concluded that the vaccine’s overall benefit outweighs the rare risks associated, DRC launched its vaccination campaign on April 19, but has only administered barely 10,000 doses.

Myths and negative beliefs over the vaccine have stalled the vaccination programme in the vast West African country with a population of 90 million people. 

By May 11, only 5,000 people had been vaccinated, many believed not to be indigenous Congolese.

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