MILLIONS TO LOSE OUT

Vaccines will be overpriced if commercialised — doctors

Health ministry has banned private import of Sputnik V and other jabs

In Summary

• The Kenya Medical Association said the commercialisation of the Sputnik V vaccine went against the government's assurance that the vaccines will be free or available at an affordable fee.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe gives a Covid-19 update at Afya House
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe gives a Covid-19 update at Afya House
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Doctors have opposed the commercialisation of Sputnik V and other Covid-19 vaccines, saying they will be priced out of reach for millions of Kenyans. 

The Kenya Medical Association said the commercialisation of the Sputnik V vaccine went against the government's assurance that the vaccines will be free or available at an affordable fee.

“This has set a dangerous precedent that can result in the vaccines being priced out of the market and leaving out more than 40 per cent of Kenyans who live below the poverty line,” KMA president Dr Were Onyino said.

“Vaccines are our last hope in controlling the Covid-19 pandemic and we are troubled that the high markups for retailers might lock out millions of people from accessing the vaccines,” he said.

The association wants only vaccines approved by the World Health Organization and are effective against the local strains of coronavirus to be imported.

The development comes two days after the government banned private importation of Covid-19 vaccines including the Sputnik V, and revoked all licenses.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said that the government will ensure those who had received a first dose of the Sputnik V will get the second when the time comes.

The decision for the ban was arrived at after a Covid-19 National Emergency Response Committee Meeting held on Friday.

The meeting resolved that only vaccines that have been cleared by the WHO will be allowed into the country.

Sputnik V has been cleared by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board under the emergency-use authorisation but has yet to be cleared by the WHO.

The vaccine is already being used in 36 countries but is facing pushback from European countries due to business rivalry.

Sputnik V, manufactured by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, had been imported by Syokimau-based importer Dinlas Pharmaceuticals and was already in use.  

“We do not currently have sufficient infrastructure to create transparency to ensure that we have a stream of paid for vaccines and so we cannot administratively ensure that the free vaccines are not at some point going to be paid into paid vaccines and we have already started hearing those kinds of accusations,” Kagwe said.

Kagwe added: “Our first responsibility to Kenyans is to secure lives and the second requirement is to secure the property but we must ensure that protection of the use of vaccines is the first and the foremost on the list.”

It also emerged that a team set up to prepare a list of facilities to offer such vaccines realised that the storage and distribution requirements are yet to be met.

Dr Were said access to the total dosage of the vaccines or a booster dose if necessary should be ensured. 

“The vaccination process should be highly ethical and transparent. All forms of fraud and cheating by both providers and consumers should be discouraged, monitored and heavily punished irrespective of the status of the culprit,” Dr Were said.

 

(edited by o. owino)