Blow to Sputnik vaccine importers in Kenya as Gov’t locks out private sector in roll-out plan

Blow to Sputnik vaccine importers in Kenya as Gov’t locks out private sector in roll-out plan

No private entity will be involved in the Phase 1 procurement of COVID-19 vaccines in Kenya, the Ministry of Health has declared.

According to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, the private sector will only be allowed to join the roll-out plan of vaccines in July this year, after the government has set up what it calls a “transparent and accountable system that will ensure Public Health Safety at all times.”

This therefore means that private entities that were involved in the importation of the Russian-manufactured Sputnik V vaccine are staring at huge losses, considering the government has already suspended and banned the roll-out of privately procured vaccines.

“No private entity will be involved in the Government procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. Our plan is to procure these vaccines through 3 mechanisms; The COVAX Facility, through which we currently are getting the AstraZeneca vaccine; The AFRICA CDC Platform and Directly from manufacturers through bilateral agreements,” the Health CS said in submissions to the Senate Standing Committee on Health.

So far about 400,000 people in Kenya have received the AstraZeneca vaccine from the one million doses imported last month. The Ministry says a further 25 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine are expected in Kenya.

While the Ministry of Health admits that the Sputnik V vaccine had been approved and duly-licensed for distribution by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, it maintains that the vaccine was being “irregularly deployed” and was therefore forced to ban it’s roll out in the country.

“The National Emergency Response Committee (NERC) deliberated on the role of the private sector in the importation, distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines, as explained by the chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Taskforce, following reports of irregular deployment of one of the vaccines(Sputnik V), and noted that gains made in the fight against the pandemic may be reversed by the introduction of counterfeit vaccines into the Kenyan market, putting the country at further risk of COVID-19 spread, increased morbidity and mortality,” added the CS.

The Ministry further faults the deployment of the Sputnik vaccine at private residences.

“Matters of public health safety are a priority of the Government of Kenya. NERC was informed that vaccinations were taking place at posts that were not accredited and designated by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council, including individual people’s homes.”

The Health Ministry remained non-committal on whether private entities involved in the importation and distribution of the Russian-manufactured vaccine will be compensated for the loss they are set to incur.

“The Ministry is not in a position to pronounce itself on this matter as the action taken was one in the best interests for the Public Health of all Kenyans,” reads the submission by CS Kagwe.

The Ministry of Health says 75,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine had been imported into the country, adding that only those who had already received the jab prior to the ban will be allowed to received the vaccine once they are due for the second dose.

“Since mixing of vaccines is not recommended by both WHO and other experts due to their different modes of action, the Government of Kenya thought it ethical to ensure that those who had received the first dose of Sputnik V vaccine and were due for the 2nd dose after 3 weeks are assured of receiving their dose to complete the vaccination. This criterion will only apply to the 527 vaccination cases which had been reported in the Chanjo-KE System at the time of the ban,” said the Ministry.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe did not appear before the Senate Standing Committee on Health as had been directed but was represented by Chief Administrative Secretary Dr. Rashid Aman.

Meanwhile, the Law Society of Kenya has since moved to court challenging the decision by government to ban private sector importation, distribution, and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The lawyers’ body argues that the directive issued by the president on March 26 was not founded upon any provision of law and is therefore unlawful and unconstitutional.

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