PREPARES FOR LOCAL PRODUCTION

Kenya plans to import vaccine in large quantities for repackaging

Global supply chain challenges have hampered importation and achievement of vaccination targets.

In Summary

• The vaccination rate seems to have slowed from roughly 30,000 per day in the past weeks to just less than 1,000 per day.

• A task force headed by KEMRI board chairman Daniel Musyoka has been formed.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe visits Revital Healthcare Plant in Kilifi
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe visits Revital Healthcare Plant in Kilifi
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Kenya is in talks with AstraZeneca manufacturers to enable importation of the vaccine in large quantities for repackaging in vials.

Already, plans are at an advanced stage to ensure a form-and-fill factory is set up in the country. This comes even as the country continued to run low on vaccine stocks, with 887,034 people having been vaccinated by Monday.

Those vaccinated include 158,168 healthcare workers, 137,701 teachers and 74,554 security officers. Those aged above 58 years form part of the group. 

The vaccination rate seems to have slowed from roughly 30,000 per day in the past weeks to just less than 1,000 per day. The number of people vaccinated by Sunday, for instance, was 886,288. It increased by just 746 in one day to 887,288 on Monday.

In an effort to help address shortage challenges, the factory will be at KEMRI-Welcome Trust Kilifi, which has collaborated in the clinical trials of the vaccine.

A task force headed by Kemri board chairman Daniel Musyoka has been formed and comprises health experts, vaccines deployment task force chairman Willis Akhwale and representatives from security agencies.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe visits Revital Healthcare Plant in Kilifi
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe visits Revital Healthcare Plant in Kilifi
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Under the arrangement, Kenya will import large volumes of vaccines in drums for repacking and redistribution as the government works on a roadmap towards local manufacture.

“We have been working with AZ. I can assure you that we have reached the helm of the AZ organisation in the discussion because we would expect them to be dealing with the matter of the vaccine in quantity in the first stages of our development before we get to our own research and form our own vaccines,” Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said.

“In the short-medium term, what we are looking at is a form-and-fill facility that we want to do at Kemri because the biggest challenge for the distributors of the vaccine is not even so much the making of the vaccines, it is more to do with the filling of the vials so that they can be brought to us.”

Local factories such as Revital Healthcare plant based in Kilifi will be relied on for the production of consumables such as syringes for local use.

“I was at the Revital factory that makes a lot of consumables, including syringes and needles, and they have been exporting all these things to Europe and elsewhere as a way of ensuring that we will have the consumables that are necessary for a form and fill,” Kagwe said.

“We can have the factory, but the vials and the other consumables that we need we may not have, and to inform the industry that we are heading that direction so that they too can start preparing for such eventuality.”

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe visits Revital Healthcare Plant in Kilifi
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe visits Revital Healthcare Plant in Kilifi
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Kenya received 1.02 million doses of the AZ vaccine in March under the Covax Facility programme and another 100,000 doses from the Indian government.

The plan was to reach at least 1.25 million people by the end of June in the first phase of the vaccination schedule, with the second schedule expected to start from July.

However, global supply chain challenges have left the plans in limbo after India placed restrictions on exports to meet local demand as the country battles a deadlier strain.

Those who were expected to receive their second dose early this month have now been advised to wait until next month.