Vaccine scandal: Rogue staff selling Covid-19 jabs

Some are paying anything up Sh100,000 to secretly receive early inoculations

In Summary

• It has now emerged that some facilities are administering the jab to friends and relatives, with some said to be doing so at a fee.

• The CS noted that even though there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm from the public who are eager to take the vaccine, the resources available at the moment cannot allow everyone to be vaccinated. 

A nurse at KNH is vaccinated against Covid-19 on March 5, 2021.
A nurse at KNH is vaccinated against Covid-19 on March 5, 2021.
Image: Fredrick Omondi

Hundreds of people, many well-connected, have been given the coronavirus vaccination before it was their turn in what could be a new scandal.

Some rogue health facilities have been administering the Covid-19 vaccine to people not eligible for the phase one priority list.

Some of the beneficiaries have had to pay for the jab which the government is giving free of charge to frontline workers.

The order of vaccination is clearly regulated by the Ministry of Health. Medics, teachers and non-teaching staff, police and armed forces and those working in the ports of entry were to be vaccinated first.

But in the last few days all manner of people including businessmen and politicians from around the country have found a way to receive the jab early.

While some are using their connections with health workers to jump the queue and receive Covid-19 vaccines, some are paying anything up Sh100,000 to secretly receive early inoculations.

In the last few days there have been long queues at public facilities especially Mbagathi District Hospital in Nairobi and Mama Lucy where the vaccine is being administered. 

As a result, people—including politicians—have already been vaccinated against the coronavirus before it was their turn.

The priority list will be expanded to include those aged above 58 years and Kenyans with pre-existing medical conditions when the country receives the second batch of vaccines in April, after it emerged that more than 60 per cent of the deaths recorded in the country are from this group of people.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe yesterday said private facilities—which he did not name —are most affected in queue-jumping and drastic measures taken will include revoking of operating licences for such facilities.

The vaccine is offered in chosen public and private health facilities.

The government received 1.02 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 3 through Covax and an additional 100,000 doses from the Government of India.

As at Monday, more than 40,000 Kenyans had been reached with the first dose of the vaccine. The second dose is expected to be administered after eight weeks.

“I think somewhere along the line we seem to have developed some confusion that anybody can walk into a vaccination centre and get vaccines. I want to make it very clear, those carrying out vaccination will have to account for every dose that they have used and that dose that they have used must be matched against an eligible person,” Kagwe said.

“Should we receive information to the contrary, we will have no alternative but to take whatever legal extent possible to us including revoking of practice licences. We know we have heard there are those who are now calling friends and relatives to vaccinate them, particularly in private hospitals and we would like to say that this is against the law,” he said.

Chairman of the Covid-19 vaccine task force Dr Wills Akhwale said some of the reasons we are seeing long queues is people think that if they get vaccinated now they will escape the third wave.

"Let us not jump queue, we have a very clear plan. The ICT registration platform is being finalised and will be tested this week. That will mean the prioritised group you will not have to go and queue on health facilities. You can use the phone and book the day you want to get vaccinated," he said.

The nurses professional association defended the nurses giving the jabs, saying the sheer amount of work could overwhelm them.

National Nurses Association of Kenya president Alfred Obengo pleaded with Kenyans who are not on the priority list to avoid queuing for the vaccine. "Even if you manage to cheat your way and you get the vaccine yet you're not a frontline worker it means you have taken what was meant for a nurse or a doctor who is more vulnerable. Even in war we protect soldiers on the frontline the most, not those in the barracks. So the priority list remains and has not changed."

CS Kagwe noted that even though there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm from the public who are eager to take the vaccine, the resources available at the moment cannot allow everyone to be vaccinated.

He said each dose administered against each eligible recipient is the only way to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability.

“I saw it here at the ministry when we had a site here. Today, I saw pictures from Mbagathi that again look like a whole crowd of people. Queues are developing in those sites but we urge that we must follow the priority list, we must adhere to the guidelines given as to who should be vaccinated before who,” the CS said.

This comes even as the country recorded the highest positivity ever, at 22 per cent.

Kagwe announced yesterday, 1,130 people tested positive for the virus from a sample size of 5,119 tested in 24 hours. 

The cumulative caseload now stands at 122,040 from a total of 1,419, 984 tests conducted in the country to date.

The number of fatalities has also continued to rise with 12 more deaths reported in 24 hours, pushing the deaths in the country to 2,023. All the 12 are late death reports from facility record audits that occurred on diverse dates.

The CS further cautioned private facilities that have been turning away eligible Kenyans seeking the vaccine on grounds that they don’t work for them.

He termed it unacceptable, adding that so long as a facility has been designated as a vaccination site it should administer vaccines to all qualifying members of society without discrimination.

“Vaccination is available to eligible members of our society at all referral and select facilities in the counties. These facilities include those owned and managed privately as well as those that belong to faith-based organisations,” he said.

The CS added: “For avoidance of doubt, any eligible officer can turn up for vaccination at any facility designated as a vaccination site and get their jab for free.”

The ministry has however, cautioned Kenyan who take the jab to continue adhering to the Covid-19 containment measures and protocols, saying even though the vaccine itself presents a good mitigation against the virus, it takes time to prepare the body to fight against the disease.

 “We have had this notion where people are complaining that somebody got positive the day after vaccinating. If you get exposed, a day, a week towards, two weeks you will still get the virus and I think it should be made clear that you do not become immune immediately, it takes time for that to happen,” he said.

Kagwe also noted that diplomats will be vaccinated on reciprocal basis as long as the exercise is done in accordance with the priority list.

“In other words, if you have got persons who are frontline soldiers within the embassies and within the UN we will prioritise them with everyone else when we get to the age of 58 years so again everybody will be eligible irrespective of who they are or which countries they come from,” Kagwe said.

Data from the ministry shows that 1,013 patients were admitted in various health facilities in the country, with 3,003 being on the home-based care programme.

One hundred and twenty patients were in the Intensive Care Unit, 31 of who were on ventilators and 86 on supplemental oxygen and three under observation. Another 67 patients were separately on supplementary oxygen with 50 of them being in the general wards and 17 in the high dependency unit.

-Edited by Sarah Kanyara

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