On Covid vaccines, Kenyans deserve full transparency

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 00:00 |
Covid-19 vaccine.

Sheila Masinde 

Amid the fevered anticipation that the first batch of the Covid-19 vaccines will arrive in Kenya in February, there is less focused discussion on the acquisition and distribution equation.

That is, how much vaccines will the country procure and resources entailed, who will receive the Covid-19 jab first in addition to health workers, others providing essential services and individuals with high risk medical conditions, and how will the vaccine be distributed to the more than 47 million Kenyans in a transparent and equitable manner. 

Like every other facet of public services’ _provision, transparency and accountability in Covid-19 vaccine acquisition and distribution is critical if Kenya is to succeed in its efforts to reach the most vulnerable and those at the margins of our society based on need rather than affordability or proximity to the powers that be. 

Whilst the Ministry of Health has consistently stated that priority for vaccination will be given to healthcare workers, it has not fully developed a transparent and equitable distribution plan; and if one exists, it has not been shared with the public. 

So far, the government’s response to the pandemic has been marred by allegations of graft over the procurement and supply of Covid-19 items.

Kenyans must not forget the corruption scandals birthed from this pandemic and the sensational stories of how procurement contracts were issued with padded costs and substandard Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) purchased, with complete disregard for the plight and welfare of frontline health workers and Kenyans generally.

Worse still, is that action is yet to be undertaken in terms of prosecution, conviction or recovery of public funds lost in the botched processes. 

So, as the country holds its breath, pinning hope on the Covid-19 jab for a resumption of a semblance of normalcy, the painful reality is that the government risks setting itself up for failure in the distribution of the vaccine, if robust surveillance and oversight mechanisms are not instituted to ensure an open and fair distribution system.

A transparent process in identifying the individuals that should have early access to the vaccine to enhance equitable distribution should be a key cog in such a system.

Proactive disclosure of information to the public and guaranteed public participation in the vaccine acquisition and distribution processes is also key.

The Ministry of Health thus needs to engage a broad range of stakeholders including oversight institutions and non-state actors in planning and monitoring distribution at national and county level. 

Instituting these measures will go a long way in plugging the gaps and barriers, such as the risk of corruption in the acquisition and distribution process to ensure that all Kenyans have equitable access to the vaccine, to bring the pandemic under control in Kenya.

And by so doing, carrying us over the tipping point.  —  The writer is the Executive Director, Transparency International Kenya — [email protected]

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