Kenya, just like the rest of Africa still has a long way to go, compared to high income countries in the developed world, in realizing the desired herd -immunity against COVID-19.
Although the African Union and Africa CDC’s target is to vaccinate 60% of the population- up to 750 million people in the continent- high global demand, and bottlenecks encountered by the Serum Institute of India, is making it difficult for the continent to achieve this goal.
“The target was 90 million by April. So far 36 million people have been vaccinated. We still have a lot of effort and intervention to put in place.” Dr. Ahmed Ogwell, the Deputy Director Africa CDC said.
Many countries in the continent including Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria received their first consignment, mainly of the Astrazeneca vaccine from the COVAX facility.
With the fate of the second and other consecutive consignments hanging in the balance, the African Union’s bloc of 55 member states has shifted its focus to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In a deal signed last week, the CDC is looking to secure up to 400 million doses even with additional supplies from Johnson & Johnson.
This is in addition to the Astrazeneca vaccine supply from Serum Institute of India to Africa through the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility.
“In a good vaccination programme, predictability of availability of vaccines is very, very important, so that you know when and how to use your first doses and counsel people who have received their first doses to come in and get their second doses. But again, as I said last week, the situation with the Serum Institute and the government of India imposing restrictions, it makes it very complicated for our vaccination programme across the continent.” John Nkengasong, Head of Africa CDC said.
According to the Ministry of Health, the earliest Kenya can get the South African manufactured Johnson and Johnson vaccine is June.
This arrangement for Kenya, outside COVAX is informed by the rationale that the COVAX facility alone cannot meet the demand for vaccines in the continent.
“COVAX can only meet 20% of the population. We are targeting 60%, so the 40% can only be met through the bilateral agreements and purchase from the Africa Union.” Dr Ahmed Agwell, the deputy Director of Africa CDC says.
A festering global problem of great concern is not just the shortage of vaccines, but the decision of key global players to block the export of critical raw materials needed for manufacturing vaccines.
The United States’ move to lock up raw materials and supplies for Pfizer’s Biontech-partnered MRNA vaccine is spelling trouble for manufacturers working on other shots around the globe.
Both the WHO and Africa CDC have raised a warning flag.
“ Any country that does this is doing a great disservice to public health. There is always tomorrow life must come before business.”Dr. Agwell added.
In the meantime, India, has banned the export of Anti-viral drug Remdesivir and its active pharmaceutical ingredients after a record spike in COVID-19 cases sent demand surging.
“In light of the above, government of India has prohibited the exports of injection Remdesivir and Remdesivir active pharmaceutical ingredients API) till the situation improves,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Seven Indian companies have licensed the drug from Gilead sciences, with an installed capacity of about 3.9 million units per month.
This, another big blow particularly for patients with severe illness and receiving critical care.