MAMMOTH OPERATION

How Covid-19 vaccines will reach Kenya

Five candidates on the frontline; Unicef sends in millions of syringes in preparation

In Summary

• All vaccines bought through the Covax facility will be sold at about Sh300 (about $3) to developing countries.

• The announcement came as more research centres, including the University of Oxford, announced promising results of vaccine trials. 

Unicef consignments
Unicef consignments
Image: Courtesy

Unicef has announced details of a mammoth operation to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to Kenya and other developing countries.

The agency says it has contracted more than 350 airlines and freight companies to deliver one billion syringes and the vaccines.

At least 500 million syringes will be delivered ahead of the vaccines next year. The agency on Monday said this will be the largest and fastest such operation ever undertaken.

 

“Unicef is stepping up efforts with airlines, freight operators, shipping lines and other logistics associations to deliver life-saving vaccines as quickly and safely as possible,” said Etleva Kadilli, director of the agency's supply division.

The announcement came as more research centres, including the University of Oxford, announced promising results of vaccine trials. 

Unicef is leading efforts to procure and deliver vaccines from manufacturers that have agreements with the Covax Facility, the WHO-led effort to secure vaccines for poor countries.

Kenya expects to receive enough Covid-19 vaccines for 20 per cent of the country's population. Healthcare workers will be first to be vaccinated, followed by vulnerable groups like old people. 

As the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, Unicef normally procures more than two billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunisation and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries.

On Monday, the University of Oxford and Astrazeneca also announced their Phase III trial results. This is the vaccine being trialled in Kilifi, but the results announced did not comprise the data from Kenya.

Oxford said the vaccine is 70.4 per cent effective, with tests on two different dose regimens showing the vaccine was 90 per cent effective if administered at a half dose and then at a full dose, or 62 per cent effective if administered in two full doses.

 

This is a little lower than Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, both of which announced more than 90 per cent total efficacy in protecting people from the virus.

But crucially, the Oxford vaccine can be easily administered in existing healthcare systems, stored at ‘fridge temperature’ (2-8 °C) and distributed using existing logistics.

This is unlike Pfizer-BioNTech’s offering, which must be stored at -70°C, and Moderna's which needs –20°C.

"The vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access mean it will be affordable and globally available supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval," Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO said in a statement. 

The Phase III clinical trials are ongoing in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. Further trials are being conducted in Kenya, the United States, Japan and India to provide regulators with further information about the efficacy and safety of the candidate vaccine, including its ability to both protect against and stop the transmission of Covid-19.

All vaccines bought through the Covax facility will be sold at about Sh300 (about $3) to developing countries.

Other frontrunners are Johnson and Johnson, whose Phase III results are expected by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

Russia's Sputnik V is 92 per cent effective and 10 countries have signed deals to receive it. 

Others are Chinese CanSino Biologics Inc, which is in the late stage-trial but is already being used by the military. 

Sinopharm Group of China is also conducting late-stage trials in China, Brazil and Bahrain but has not given efficacy data.

 

Edited by F'Orieny