NO MIXING

Kenya to revise, expand vaccine deployment plan

By Friday, 822,651 Kenyans had received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

In Summary

• It has become difficult to acquire the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite Kenya ordering 24 million doses, after India banned exports. 

• Kenya has revised the duration between the first and second dose from the initial eight to 12 weeks

A nurse holds a bottle of AstraZeneca vaccine at Mutuini Hospital, Dagoretti, on March 9, 2021
A nurse holds a bottle of AstraZeneca vaccine at Mutuini Hospital, Dagoretti, on March 9, 2021
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Kenya’s Covid-19 vaccines deployment task force will from Monday hold a series of meetings to lay out strategies for the introduction of multiple vaccines.

The task force chaired by Dr Willis Akhwale will seek to revise and expand the Covid-19 vaccine deployment plan in the wake of supply challenges affecting AstraZeneca.

By Friday, 822,651 Kenyans had received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. They include 152,469 healthcare workers, 126,322 teachers and 66,677 security personnel.

 Kenya is struggling to get the second consignment of the vaccine after receiving 1.02 million doses out of the expected 3.5 million.

The delivery of the second consignment of 2.5 million doses in May now hangs in the balance, with India struggling with a surge in cases. This has made the sole manufacturer of the AZ vaccines, the Serum Institute, to focus on satisfying the local demand.

The Indian-based manufacturer said the earliest they can resume exports is June.

“I am not holding my breath in terms of deliveries in May given what we have now seen is happening in India where they are reporting over 200,000 positive cases per day. We think there will be a delay as far as deliveries are concerned,” Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said.

Kenya has now revised the duration between the first and second dose from the initial eight to 12 weeks.

This means that those who were to get their second shot in May will have to wait until June.

“It is not only Kenya that is pushing the second dose to 12 weeks. It is a recommendation by WHO, other countries have done that. There will be no public health harm for you to get the vaccine dose at 12 weeks,” Akhwale said.

“It is still as per recommendation and indeed the science has shown that the immune response and the way your body will react to it to give you protection is better than if it is done at eight weeks.”

The ministry has, however, ruled out the possibility of mixing vaccines despite the shortage and challenges with accessing the AZ vaccines.

Kenya will buy at least one million of doses of the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines with the ministry disclosing that talks are at advanced stages to procure the doses later this year.

It has become difficult to acquire the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite Kenya ordering 24 million doses, after India banned exports.

“We are in constant discussion with Covax on a daily basis. Last week they told us during the month of May they will get 65,000 doses outside India, but now we are asking them how many are likely to come to Africa so once we get the information we will let Kenyans."

Akhwale said Kenya is taking a two-pronged approach by procuring through the Africa CDC platform and negotiating directly with the manufacturers.

He said Pfizer is also preferable because it can be used to vaccinate children at least 16 years of age, who are considered superspreaders of the disease.

“We are assuring Kenyans that the second dose will be from AstraZeneca. Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson will come to vaccinate other Kenyans.”

Currently, only the AstraZeneca vaccine has been granted emergency use authorisation in Kenya.