Kenya’s Covid 19 vaccine promises fail to add up

Repeated promises that Kenya has procured millions of Covid 19 vaccines from diverse sources are not verifiable.

Since October last year the Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe and other senior officials have told of deals with China, Russia, India, South Korea and UK to  increase chances of getting Covid 19 vaccines.

“We are not just depending on the Covax Facility but targeting any vaccine approved by a stringent regulatory authority,” said Kagwe.

Two weeks ago Kagwe said Kenya had placed an order of 30 million Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses, which would be delivered within a year.

But apart from the 24 million free doses promised through the Covax Facility, there is no independent or publicly available evidence showing Kenya has made any other deals outside this arrangement.

There is also no evidence that the country has paid for an additional 10 million doses through Covax as previously claimed.

A search within the highly comprehensive UNICEF COVID-19 Vaccine Market Dashboard and the Duke University SPEEDOMETER show no evidence Kenya has made any bilateral Covid vaccine procurement deals.

While Kenya misses from these datasets, smaller economies such as Somalia, Uganda, Benin and Zimbabwe are indicated to have secured bilateral deals outside the Covax Facility.

Uganda and Ghana have made deals for AstraZeneca vaccine; Zimbabwe, Somalia and Benin have deals with Chinese manufacturers, Ivory Coast for Pfizer while several North African countries are already getting Sputnik from Russia.

While Kenya claims to have made procurement through Africa Union, the latter’s information remains highly opaque and secretive about who has procured what.

In any case AU is unlikely to get supplies ahead of Covax Facility whose members such as GAVI are better placed in dealing with the global pharma industry.

But vaccine procurements are not the only unverifiable promises Kenya government and its agencies have made during the pandemic.

April 2020: Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta promised that Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Institute of Primate Research (IPR) were working on a Covid 19 vaccine.

“Our institutions including Kemri and the Institute of Primate Research (IPR) are involved in the search for a vaccine, and we shall keep you informed.” President Uhuru Kenyatta had told the Nation.

April 2020:  A Kemri delegation told a Senate Ad Hoc committee on coronavirus the institution had started working on a Covid 19 vaccine that could be ready within six months

“All variables constant, the prototype will be ready in the next six months. Thereafter more laboratory tests will be done with the aim of reaching clinical trials which range from phase one to three,” said Kemri.

October 2020: Former KEMRI’s Director-General Prof Yeri Kombe announced a partnership with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology to develop a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of that year.

So far, however, there is no evidence Kenya has designed, developed or manufactured a Covid vaccine or even PCR testing kits as promised more than a year ago.

By Gatonye Gathura

About Gatonye Gathura 126 Articles
Science Journalist

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