Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine

Aspen Pharmacare is planning to increase its manufacturing capacity for Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa by 200 million.

| Justin Tallis | AFP

Kenya to receive batch of J&J vaccine

Kenya is among 17 African countries that will receive 6.4 million doses of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines this month.

This follows the World Bank’s approval of $2 billion in financing to the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (Avatt) initiative that has secured up to 400 million doses of the vaccine.

There is a commitment for another 220 million doses with the option of an additional 180 million. The latest consignment is expected in the coming two to three weeks.

Kenya’s vaccine task force chairperson, Dr Willis Akhwale, said the actual number of doses the country will receive will be known later. But a few months ago he indicated the team had ordered for two million doses.

“I am scheduled for a meeting on this tomorrow [today] and I know they will communicate the final decision they have made on the number of doses allocated to Kenya,” the chair said.

The other beneficiaries are Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Lesotho, Mauritania, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia and Zambia.

On Sunday at the virtual finance and health ministers’ meeting with the World Bank and Avatt, Strive Masiyiwa, African Union special envoy for Covid-19, said the financing allows countries to purchase vaccines through Gavi-Covax.

The organisation was appointed by the World Health Organization to oversee procurement, allotment and distribution of vaccines to 92 countries that have signed up for the Covax facility.

“Shipment of the vaccines will be on a monthly basis. Once a country meets its order obligations, it will receive a schedule on monthly deliveries through Unicef,” Mr Masiyiwa said.

With the financing, African countries should now move faster and apply for funds to ensure their populations are vaccinated, said Dr Vera Songwe, UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA),

The partnership will expedite access and deployment of vaccines in Africa, said Axel Van Trotsenburg, managing director of operations at the World Bank.

The World Bank money will help countries effectively deploy vaccines, including expanding storage and building a cold chain.

Only 17 African countries have ordered and fulfilled all delivery requirements, said Prof Benedict Oramah, president of the African Export-Import Bank.

Some 13 countries have ordered but not fulfilled all the delivery requirements, 12 countries have indicated interest and not yet committed while 13 countries have not expressed any interest.

At the ministers’ meeting, more countries came on board to commit to deliveries while others showed interest and pledged to order. The African Union aims to vaccinate 60 percent of the continent’s population by 2022. Of the Covid-19 deaths that occurred in June, 99.2 percent were not vaccinated, said Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control. He said 38 countries are experiencing a third wave of the pandemic that is more severe while two, Algeria and Tunisia, are in a fourth wave. Without vaccination, the fourth wave is projected to be worse across the continent

If people in other continents are vaccinated and Africa is left behind, said Botswana finance minister Peggy Serame, the intention of the vaccination drive for the whole world will not be achieved.

Vaccination certificates, she said, should not be a mandatory requirement for travelling or for accessing other services as this will discriminate against Africans. As of yesterday, Kenya had surpassed 200,000 confirmed cases, registering 203,680 infections, 3,946 deaths and 189,131 recoveries after 2,137,572 tests.

The country has also fully vaccinated 662,089 people while 1,064,104 are partially vaccinated, data from the Health ministry shows.