WAR ON COVID

Shop for Covid-19 vaccine in China, Uhuru tells Health ministry

Country also welcomes Chinese trials as frustration with west's vaccine hoarding grows.

In Summary

• Kemri will collaborate with researchers from other countries such as South Korea, India, Singapore and China.

•Chinese President Xi Jinping already promised the successful candidates will be offered to Africa at a discounted price leading to China being accused of 'vaccine diplomacy.'

A medic holds a bottle labelled Vaccine Covid-19.
VACCINE TRIALS: A medic holds a bottle labelled Vaccine Covid-19.
Image: REUTERS

President Uhuru has asked the Ministry of Health to shop for Covid-19 vaccines in China. 

Until now, Kenya was waiting for a vaccine to be delivered through the Covax facility, a WHO-led project working largely with western manufacturers. 

However, there is growing frustration because most of the western manufacturers have already sold billions of doses to rich countries in advance.

 
 

This means Kenya will not gain full access to affordable vaccines until after the rich world has vaccinated its people, probably past 2022.

 

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the President has now given a go-ahead to extend the search further to the east.

"While Kemri continues  to collaborate with AstraZeneca and Oxford University in the trials  for this vaccine, the government remains open to other collaborative opportunities," he said in a statement on Monday.

Mutahi said this was resolved yesterday in a National Emergency Response Committee attended by President Kenyatta. 

"In this regard, Kemri will collaborate with researchers from other countries such as South Korea, India, Singapore and China," he added.

The decision also welcomes the testing of a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine in Kenya. 

In Africa, only Morocco and Egypt are testing a Chinese vaccine candidate.

 

Kagwe said the decision was made because the toll of coronavirus in Kenya is worsening. 

"Covid-19 seems  to be making  a comeback with a vengeance and for us in Kenya, the cases in the counties seem to be growing," he said. 

On Monday, 302 people tested positive for the virus, from a sample of 3,038 bringing the total of positives since March 13 to 83,618.

The death rate remains high and yesterday 17 people succumbed to the virus, bringing total fatalities to 1,469. 

China has five home-grown vaccine candidates in phase three trials, usually the last step before government regulators vet the vaccine for approval.

Chinese President Xi Jinping already promised the successful candidates will be offered to Africa at a discounted price leading to China being accused of 'vaccine diplomacy.'

In June, Xi chaired the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against Covid-19 and pledged that “once the development and deployment of a Covid-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit”.

However, countries where the Chinese vaccines are being tested will receive preference. 

For instance, China has promised Brazil, which is conducting clinical trials, six million doses of CoronaVac, made by the biotech firm Sinovac,  by January.

China has also joined the Covax international vaccine alliance, the WHO-led initiative from which Kenya aims to get enough to vaccinate 20 per cent of the population. 

However, China has not released much data on the efficacy of its home-grown vaccines, and little scientific information about them is readily available.