Kenya has placed an order of 30 million Johnson and Johnson Covid vaccine doses which are expected in the country within a year.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the move is informed by shortage of the AstraZeneca vaccine since India paused exports to plug domestic supply gaps as it fights a devastating Covid wave.
Mr Kagwe noted that the raging pandemic in the South Asian country has forced 93 other countries around the world to shop for alternatives.
About 772,000 new Covid cases are reported on average each day across the world with India, where the virus variant B.1.617 has been spreading from big cities to the rural villages, accounting for nearly half of the numbers.
As country set new daily deaths record at over 4,200 in the last 24 hours, corpses continue washing up on the banks of India’s Ganges River along the border of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, two states where the virus is spreading like wild fire.
“There are no miracles regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. We have to live with the current situation as we find alternatives. In any case, we have until July to worry about the second dose,” he said.
The CS, however, assured people who have received the first AstraZeneca shot not to worry about any negative effects, saying their immunity against the disease is over 60 per cent.
During a meeting of health ministers in Africa, Mr Kagwe proposed that all the money raised via the Covax initiative be used to pay for 200 million doses of Pfizer and another 210 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
“With this arrangement, Kenya will not pay anything and will easily get and vaccinate 30 million people with Johnson and Johnson which is being manufactured in Africa and will be a single dose,” he said.
Head of vaccines deployment task force, Dr Willis Akhwale said India’s freeze on vaccine exports created a shortfall of 90 million doses for Covax, adding that some 2.5 million doses are expected in Kenya from India early June.
The Serum Institute of India committed to supply Covax with one billion doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by March. However, it had only shipped about 30 million doses when it halted supplies.
A total of 917,068 Kenyans have received their first shot of AstraZeneca vaccine with 280,876 being people aged above 58 years, 160,947 healthcare workers, 143,684 teachers, 77,417 are security officers while 254,144 are other members of the public.
Meanwhile, the UNICEF have urged the UK to commit to giving 20 per cent of its vaccines to other countries that are in urgent need, saying the country will still have enough to vaccinate every adult by the end of July.
The children’s charity estimates the UK will have enough spare doses this year to fully vaccinate a further 50 million people globally, and urges the government to set an example to the G7 by sharing doses from June.