Kenyans continued to receive the controversial Russian vaccine even after the government banned its distribution, sale and administration, the Nation can reveal.
When the Health ministry revoked the licences that it had issued to private hospitals to administer the vaccine on April 2, only 228 individuals had received their first dose of Sputnik V and were the only people eligible for the second dose.
“Only 228 Kenyans who have received their first dose of Sputnik V vaccine will be allowed to get their second dose, which was due after 21 days,” Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said as he banned importation of Covid-19 vaccines by the private sector April 2.
“The rest of the consignment can be sold to other countries.”
However, data collected by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) as it picked up the doses for re-export reveals that 1,293 people had received their first and second doses of the vaccine.
“We had allowed those who had taken the first dose to go for their second dose as per the government instruction and from the numbers given by the importers, as of April 28, about 1,293 Kenyans had gotten their first dose. The number was five times what the government had announced,” said a source at PPB who sought anonymity since she is not allowed to issue media reports.
“We had to set aside the same number of doses for second component, which ended yesterday.”
The board had set April 27, as the last day that Sputnik vaccine would be administered in the country.
The revelations mean the private clinics that had been authorised to administer the vaccine continued to vaccinate people even after the ban.
The new details also add to the controversy that shrouded the vaccine right from its importation to distribution and sale, culminating into its ban.
The Nation exclusively reported how the vaccine was sneaked out of warehouses and taken to private clinics without the authorisation of the Health ministry.
The vaccine had been imported into Kenya by a company called Dinlas Pharma EPZ Limited.
The jab with 91.6 efficacy per cent, according to data published in the Lancet, comes in two components— Sputnik V 1, which is given as a first dose, is stored at-18 degrees Celsius while for the second dose, Sputnik V 2, can be stored at between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.
Out of the 75,000 doses that arrived on March 22, some 50,000 were first component while 25,000 were second component.
According to PPB report, only 46,268 doses of the first component and 21,268 doses of the second one are at the warehouse for re-export.
The board, the source said, is going to destroy all the 5,873 doses collected from various hospitals in the country since it is not sure of their safety.
“Only those that were remaining at the warehouse will be shipped back but for the ones that we have collected from distribution centres will be destroyed since we are not sure how they were kept,” said the source.
“We have since dispatched the 46,268 doses of the first component to the custom for re-exportation and we wait for clearance for the second batch.”
Dinlas Pharma EPZ Limited early this month applied to the ministry to be allowed to re-export the vaccines and sell them either to Lebanon or Pakistan.
Meanwhile, there is uncertainty over the second dose of the oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with over 840,075 Kenyans having received the first dose.
The Health ministry has since extended the duration between the doses to 12 weeks following a blockade in India that has caused delays in the arrival of more vaccines.
Delhi blocked exports of the vaccine to balance surging domestic demand with international orders. The ban means poorer nations, including Kenya, will probably have to wait a few months before receiving more doses.
Delhi is currently witnessing a resurgence of infections and, as of yesterday, there were over 18 million new active cases.
Kenya and a host of other low and middle-income countries, depend on the United Nations-backed Covax facility, a multi-organisation global initiative to access Covid-19 vaccines.
Covax is the biggest customer of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
Kenya was to receive 3.6 million doses of the AZ vaccine between February and May. The first shipment of 1.2 million doses was delivered in March.
Initially, they had promised 2.4 million doses by the end of May but they have since pushed it to June until their numbers are manageable.
Appearing before the National Health Committee on Friday, Mr Kagwe expressed fear that the earliest the country would receive the second batch of AstraZeneca vaccine from Covax is at the end of June.