South Sudan offers Kenya 72,000 coronavirus vaccines vaccines

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021 00:00 |
Abigael Owila, a nurse at Mbagathi Hospital administers a dose of the Oxford’s AstraZeneca vaccine to her colleague on March 9, 2021 at Mutuini Hospital in Dagoretti South. Photo/PD/FILE

Kenya will receive 72,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from South Sudan in the next few hours to boost the country’s hope of kicking off the second round of vaccinations against Covid-19 scheduled to commence on Friday.

Head of Covid-19 vaccine deployment task force Dr Willis Akhwale  confirmed the reports saying the  two governments were last evening finalising the pre-shipment paperwork.

“We are getting the first few doses as we wait for the Covax facility to replenish its vaccine stocks. Currently, government officials from both countries are finalising the necessary documentation to pave way for the shipment of the vaccines,” he told People Daily. 

A total of 954,515 people have so far been vaccinated countrywide as at May 22, 2021. 

Of these, 289,900 are aged 58 years and above, 164,053 are health workers, 150,303 are teachers, 80,718 are security officers while 269,541 belong to the others category.

A global shortage of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine due to the crisis in India has left African countries in the lurch.

In this regard, Dr Akwhale met the County health ministers yesterday and prevailed upon them to support the national government in mobilising healthcare workers to turn up for the second injection without hesitation.

Just as it was in the first round of vaccination, the health workers are the ones to receive the second dose of the vaccine first.

“We are currently meeting with the County Executive members in charge of health, and we have tasked them to do a bit of mobilisation in order for us to avert a situation where we may waste the vaccines, which expire in the next one month,” he said.

Using a structured administration of the doses, the government hopes to have mopped up all the available vaccines, and those expected to arrive today and the next few days.

“Within the next two weeks, every vaccine should be accounted for,” he said.  

Immediate neighbour 

Initially, there were plans to secure more vaccine doses from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was also rushing against time to redistribute the doses before expiry, but the Covax Facility managers declined to approve the move.

“Countries had started bilateral discussions on how they will share the doses, and Kenya had reached an agreement with the DR Congo, but Covax told us there was a plan for doing that.

The policy, Covax told us, was that a country receives from an immediate neighbour, and that’s how it was settled that South Sudan will share with us,” he said and urged Ministers of Health at the ongoing World Health assembly meeting to address the issue of vaccine inequity as a matter of necessity to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines for all. 

“Appreciating the fact that none is safe until we are all safe must mean that to vaccinate generally safe 13-year-olds in one country while denying high-risk adults access to the vaccine in another country is a damning contradiction of this principle. 

“There have been clear demonstrations of vaccine nationalism or vaccine apartheid. Such actions will not stop the virus,” Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe who delivered Kenya government’s message urged.

“We hope that monies intended for the acquisition of AstraZeneca vaccine will be diverted to cater for the acquisition of the added vaccines and contribute to the budgetary relief of developing and middle income countries as earlier intended,” he said.

Kenya wants multilateral partners to facilitate and fast track regulatory and prequalification for local production, especially in Africa in WHO processes, in order to step up regional and local manufacturing of vaccines.

Similarly, the government wants knowledge transfer on new COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics in all parts of the world with WHO assistance.

“Countries must desist from engaging in discriminatory conduct and accept all valid certificates for vaccines approved by WHO for emergency use,” the CS said.

He also called for the sharing of Intellectual Property Rights with countries to allow for the development of local capacity in vaccine development. 

“Consequently, there is a need to re-evaluate ownership of IP Rights to reflect the true participation in creating the same.

Too often, research results and trials conducted in Africa are assumed to be the property of some participants instead of all participants.

“In conclusion, we as a global community have a common goal of ending this pandemic. But we must do so in such a manner that we end it for everyone at the same time,” he said.

South Sudan, the youngest East African Community member, received 132, 000 doses on March 25 this year, and committed to return the jabs amid expiry fears. 

However, the country’s Ministry of Health explained further that it encountered challenges in expanding the vaccination campaign due to low demand for the jabs, as well as logistical problems.

The World Health Organisation has set June 28 as the expiry date for this particular vaccine.

“We agreed to commit back 72,000 doses. We don’t want to run the risk of them expiring in our hands,’ the country’s Health Ministry Undersecretary Mayen Machut Achiek was reported by the local media saying.

He confirmed to that authorities in the country had reached an agreement with COVAX to send back the jabs developed by AstraZeneca before they expire on July 18.

“In our discussion with World Health Organization [WHO], we agreed to commit back 72,000 doses so they are kept safe.

We don’t want to run the risk of them expiring in our hands,” Achiek said.

He added that the COVAX facility was also satisfied with the arrangement to return the doses, which are part of a 132,000-vaccine batch purchased in March.

He revealed that after the deal, about 60,000 doses will remain in the country to be distributed across all of its states before they expire in July.

The country aims to vaccinate 2.4 million people of its estimated population of 12 million.

The country launched its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in the capital Juba on April 6 and has so far administered the first dose of AstraZeneca to 7,996.

South Sudan has so far reported 10,676 COVID-19 infections and 115 deaths. 

More on News