Gov’t bans importation, sale and use of private COVID-19 vaccines

Gov't bans importation, sale and use of private COVID-19 vaccines
FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labelled with "Vaccine" stickers seen near a medical syringe in front of displayed "Coronavirus COVID-19" words in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The Ministry of Health has banned importation, distribution and administration of private COVID-19 vaccines in Kenya.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe’s announcement has thrown the recently imported Sputnik V vaccine, whose private roll-out was underway, into a spin.

“There has been lack of clarity with the private vaccines. We want Kenyans to have vaccines that have been cleared by two institutions: Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) and the World Health Organization (WHO). If it has not been cleared by WHO it will not be used in Kenya,” he said.

The CS was addressing the media on Friday at Afya House in Nairobi.

According to CS Kagwe, Kenya does not have the infrastructure to ensure transparency in the roll-out of privately-imported vaccines.

Under the new ban, any person found offering private COVID-19 vaccines to Kenyans for sale will have contravened the regulations of the PBB and risk prosecution.

“The only agent for vaccination in Kenya will remain the government of the Republic of Kenya till further notice,” CS Kagwe said.

According to the Ministry of Health, however, those who received their first dose of the Russian-made vaccine will still get their second dose.

Among prominent individuals who received Sputnik V vaccine are DP William Ruto, his wife Rachel as well as lawyers Donald Kipkorir and Ahmednassir Abdullahi.

The vaccine will however not be available for retail in the country.

The ban comes days after the PBB announced that the Russian vaccine had received emergency use authorization in the country and would be offered under strict guidelines of the Health Ministry.

Heath Ministry Acting Director General of Health Patrick Amoth had previously said there was a possibility of a vaccine not pre-qualified by WHO to be used in Kenya.

He cited the example of the Moderna vaccine, which is being used widely in the United States even without having been pre-qualified by the WHO.

The flurry of conflicting statement resulted in confusion in the country, with the Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo writing to the PPB to seek clarification on the controversial Sputnik V vaccine.

The Russian embassy in Kenya had also thrown a spanner into the works, distancing itself from the importation of the vaccine and urging those with concerns to direct them to the private importer.

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Story By Tonny Ndungu
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