Ministry to enhance storage capacity of Covid vaccines

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021 00:00 |
Airport officials offload the first consignment of the Covid-19 Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine at JKIA. PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

 The country is set to expand storage capacity of Covid-19 vaccines ahead of the arrival of two million Pfizer doses expected next week.

This is even as the number of people who have so far been vaccinated since the exercise kicked off in March hit 2.8 million. Of these, two million have received their first dose, while 814,375 have taken both.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said priority will be given to the expansion of Kitengela vaccine stores, which are already overwhelmed with storage of 15 million paediatric vaccine.

“Because we are continuing to receive more vaccines owing to the fact that Covid-19 will be around for a while, there is need to expand our storage capacity,” Kagwe said at Afya House yesterday when he received 12 ultra-low temperature freezers and accessories for storage of Covid-19 vaccines that require very low temperatures.

He said the nine storage centres spread across six counties are not adequate for the avalanche of vaccines expected in the country.

Technical capacity

The CS, who also cautioned Kenyans against hesitancy in getting vaccinated, said the government requires close to Sh1 billion to set up 25 new vaccine storage centres across the country.

“We thereafter need to improve technical capacity in 36 sub-counties and also expand storage capacity across 1,177 facilities across the country,” the CS said.

He further  noted that the country is not yet out of the woods as 704 people tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday from a sample size of 6, 776 tests with a positivity rate of 10.4 per cent.

Equipment was procured by Unicef with funding from the Government of Japan, through its global vaccine initiative ‘Last One Mile Support’, which also leverages Japan’s long-standing experience of medical logistics.

 Japanese Ambassador to Kenya, Horie Ryoichi, Unicef Chief of Health Yaron Wolman and acting World Health Organisation Representative Dr Juliet Nabyonga attended the handover ceremony in Nairobi.

“The Kenyan Government is very grateful to the Government of Japan for this cold chain equipment, which will greatly support our vaccination efforts.

This equipment will enable appropriate vaccine storage, distribution and continuous temperature monitoring, including storage for vaccines that require ‘ultra-cold’ temperatures,” CS Health Mutahi Kagwe said.

He added: “The equipment delivered today will support Kenya’s readiness to receive Pfizer and other Covid vaccines that need to be stored in very low temperatures.”

The Government of Japan has donated over Sh200 million through Unicef to improve Kenya’s cold chain capacity for Covid vaccines roll out, as part of a grant of around Sh1.1 billion to 11 countries in the East and Southern African region.

In addition to procurement of freezers and accessories, funds will also be used for the installation of new equipment and to provide training for healthcare workers on how to operate it.

“The Government of Kenya and Unicef have collaborated effectively, resulting in the speedy and successful procurement of the cold chain equipment.

“Proper storage facilities and a good management system are critical for effective distribution of the vaccines,” Ryoichi said.

Improper handling

He noted that even though Kenya may secure a large number of doses, improper handling due to lack of cold chain systems or essential human resources could result in the vaccines losing their potency and becoming ineffective.

“And due to the cold chain storage challenges, the Government of Japan has decided to extend an emergency grant aid of over Sh200 million through Unicef,” he added.

Wolman said the freezers can store around four million doses of the Pfizer jab.

“The equipment will help bolster Kenya’s health system capacity by ensuring that vaccines reach those in greatest need, wherever they live.

“The generous funding from the Government of Japan will also be used to support the installation of the equipment and provide training for the healthcare workers on how to operate it,” he added.

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