Prepare for vaccine or miss out, expert cautions Kenya

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020 00:00 |
Covid-19 vaccine.

George Kebaso @Morarak

The cost per dose of the new Covid-19 vaccine set to be produced by a German-based firm could be higher than the initial Sh300 projected for developing countries including Kenya, an expert has cautioned.

Prof Omu Anzala, a virologist, reacting to the announcement by Pfizer Inc that it was on the verge of producing a vaccine that could be 90 per cent effective against coronavirus, said it would be a long journey before it reaches patients.

 The effect of the long process would be a likely increase in the cost of the product that is sought by many countries around the globe.

“Sh300 is just nothing. There will be a syringe; needle, personnel, distribution from Nairobi to the far-flung areas.

You might have a product but you don’t have the ability to distribute or store it near the end user. Remember vaccines are biological and their storage must be cold chain,” he said.

According to the virologist, the vaccine might be ready between January and April of 2021 before it is made available in Kenya. Anzala told People Daily  last evening everything must be put in place in readiness for the arrival of the vaccine.

“As a country, we must organise ourselves in the sense that if it has to come here, it has to go through the internationally accepted standards of registration with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board; logistics must be put in place such as cold chain distribution to the end user.

It is also important to understand who will receive this vaccine; is it those who have been infected by Covid-19 and recovered or, it is those who have never been infected?

“All those questions remain unanswered, and for me I would really like to see that an elaborate plan is in place; how to receive the vaccine; distribution and storage,” the University of Nairobi scientist said last evening.

According to Anzala, the Ministry of Health has not put in place structures to distribute the vaccine.

“I have been pushing the MoH to put together a Covid-19 vaccine consortium to begin to think around all these issues: Which vaccine shall we purchase; how much will it cost, how do we organise healthcare providers who will move this vaccine from where it arrives to the end user and which kind of logistics are required,” he said.

He said communities will also have to be educated on use of the vaccine.

Prepare for success

 “You must prepare for success. If everything goes well, the earliest we can have this vaccine in the country is in the first quarter of next year,” he argued.

The manufacturer is among more than 25 drug makers who have expressed interest to supply developing countries with the vaccine under the Sh300 per dose plan spearheaded by the World Health Organisation.

However, the company must first fulfill pre-purchase orders signed with the United States, European Union and a few other rich countries running into millions of doses, to be supplied this year.

The agreement with the US is for 100 million doses, but it gives the US an option to buy an additional 500 million doses.

Pfizer has also signed an agreement to supply the EU with 200 million doses with an option for a further 100 million doses. Deliveries could start by next month.

The firm said  it will be able to supply only 50 million doses by the end of this year, and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.

“With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said.

Chinese ambassador to Kenya Zhou Pingjian told former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at his Capitol Hill office yesterday that his country’s search for a Covid-19 vaccine was also at an advanced stage.

“We have a commitment as a country to take the lead in the search for a safe and effective covid-19 vaccine and making it affordable and available to Africa,” Pingjian said.

“So far, we have 11 vaccines that have entered clinical trials, among which four have entered phase three clinical trials,” Wang Zhigang, Chinese Minister for Science and Technology was quoted Chinese media in September.

The development makes Pfizer and BioNTech the first to announce positive results from a late-stage vaccine trial.

The vaccine comprises a two-dose schedule, and protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccination, the company said.

“The first interim analysis of our global Phase 3 study provides evidence that a vaccine may effectively prevent Covid-19.

This is a victory for innovation, science and a global collaborative effort,” said Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, the collaborating German company.

The vaccine will cost $19.50 (about Sh2,000) per dose in the US.

Kenya is relying on the WHO-led Covax facility to access Covid-19 vaccines at Sh300 per dose.

Unicef, which is part of Covax, says Pfizer responded to an expression of interest in September to supply doses but no deal has been announced to date.

Under the Covax arrangement, countries can initially secure vaccine doses for up to three per cent of their population most at risk, rising to 20 per cent in a second phase in order to rationalise supplies, according to a Fair Allocation Mechanism published by WHO.

Eleven vaccines are in late-stage trials around the world while about 170 are in development globally.

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