In effort to cut dependence on vaccine imports, Kenya plans to start local production of vaccines in April next year.

Kenya is in a race with time to start vaccine production in Nairobi’s Embakasi area by Easter holiday, next year, after establishing a new company to carry out the business.

Speaking during the 58th Mashujaa day celebrations in Kirinyaga County, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the fill-and-finish entity will be known as the Kenya Biovax Limited.

“The Ministry of health should operationalize this company to eventually manufacture vaccines in our country by Easter next year,” he said, adding that the pandemic had exposed the lack of manufacturing facilities both in Kenya and other African countries.

The facility is expected to be a fill-and-finish factory ahead of the country setting up a full-scale manufacturing plant to guarantee supply.

Such fill-and-finish facilities allow third parties to construct ready-made vaccines into vials, package them for sale.

Vaccine ingredients will be imported in bulk. At the new plant, the vaccines will be produced, sealed in vials, labeled, and finished.

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In May, the Health Ministry said talks were underway with the Oxford AstraZeneca manufacturers to enable the importation of large quantities for repackaging in vials.

The ministry has said talks between two potential partners in the fill-and-finish plant are almost completed.

According to the National Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment Plan from the Ministry of Health, the country aims to have a fully-fledged human vaccine manufacturing capability by 2024, and the facility will be built at the former Kemsa depot in Embakasi.

Apart from the COVID-19 vaccine, the facility will also produce other vaccines, such as polio drops.

“We found a place in Embakasi in the industrial area close to the airport. It has been evacuated and it is now ready for renovation,” Vaccines Deployment Taskforce Chairman, Dr Willis Akhwale, said.

Meanwhile, Kenya continues to ramp up the vaccinations to meet its set target of inoculating at least 10 million by Christmas Day.

Data from the Health Ministry show that as of October 19, a total of 4,674,897 vaccines had been administered across the country.

Of these, 3,379,842 were partially vaccinated while those fully vaccinated were 1,295,055.

The uptake of the second dose among those who received their first dose was 36.7 per cent.

The proportion of adults fully vaccinated was 4.8 per cent.

Further, the country’s positivity rate is at 2.0 per cent after 117 new infections were recorded from a sample size of 6,004 tested in the last 24 hours.

At the same time, the total fatalities have risen to 5,238 after five new patients succumbed to the virus, all of them being late deaths reported after conducting facility record audits in the months of August, September, and October.

A total of 209 patients have recovered from the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to 245,786. A total of 528 patients are currently admitted to various health facilities countrywide, while 1,493 are under the home-based isolation and care program.

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