AstraZeneca vaccine.

| Thomas Kienzle | AFP

Politicians grab vaccine meant for frontline medics

The elite, including politicians, Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries, have been placed on the priority list to receive the Covid-19 vaccine expected in the country Wednesday morning. 

It emerged President Uhuru Kenyatta and senior government officials including CSs, PSs and politicians are lined up among the first people to be vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus.

The first batch of the vaccine, which will be administered at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) this weekend, targets priority groups like frontline health workers, teachers and members of the disciplined forces.

Because of their responsibilities, these groups are considered at high risk of getting coronavirus, hence their being accorded preference to access the vaccine that is in limited supply.

Scope widened

However, it has emerged that authorities have widened the scope of recipients, raising questions whether some deserving cases might miss out on the crucial drug needed to protect them in the course of their duty.

The government expects the first batch of the vaccine – 1,020,000 doses of AstraZeneca – from Serum Institute of India at mid night. Each person will receive at least two doses.

A highly-placed health official confirmed that some politicians have been scheduled to receive the jab in the first phase alongside health workers.

“You know some with their positions, they just have to get the Covid-19 jab because they are closer to power and also because they are in the fore-front in the system,” said the officials who sought anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Initially, politicians had not been listed among the ‘at risk’ population, raising questions what has informed the change.

Politicians who are doctors

However, when reached for comment, Dr Willis Akhwale, the chairman of the coronavirus vaccine taskforce, explained if the politicians are doctors who directly see patients or under security forces, then they are eligible to get the vaccine.

“We have politicians who are doctors while others are security officers. These ones are eligible to get the vaccine but we expect them to be honest to themselves; if they are not practicing then they don’t need to come for the vaccine, purporting to be in the frontline yet we have more health workers in need of the vaccine,” Dr Akhwale said.

Dr Akhwale urged Kenyans to understand that the first phase of vaccination will involve a few people because of the limited supply of the drug.

“What we need in this phase is discipline so that those who deserve the vaccine get it. We have so many people on the queue but we really have to be disciplined to achieve this,” he added.

Dr Willis Akhwale

The chairman of the coronavirus vaccine taskforce Willis Akhwale (left) and Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe. Dr Akhwale says what is needed in phase one of vaccination is discipline so that those who deserve the vaccine get it.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Priority target groups

According to the national Covid-19 vaccines deployment and vaccination plan 2021, the government plans to start with the priority target groups.

These are frontline healthcare workers, teachers, immigration officers and uniformed forces, including police, military as well as prison officers.

Kenya plans to vaccinate in three phases 30 per cent of its population (or 15.8 million) of the total population of over 49 million by the end of June 2023.

“During phase one, the initial Covid-19 vaccine supply will be limited but it is anticipated that more Covid-19 vaccines will become available for distribution during Phases II and III,” says the document.

The first phase will involve 1.25 million people between February and June 2021. Phase II, which will run between July and June 2022, will target the most vulnerable including the elderly and those above 18 years with comorbidities. It targets 9.76 million people.

The third phase will focus on ensuring equitable vaccination of other vulnerable groups of persons of 18 years and above in congregations, hospitality and tourism industry. The phase will run between July 2022 and June 2023. It targets 4.9 million people.

“There are plans to increase coverage to 40 per cent of the population (20 million) once more supplies become available. It should however be noted that these phases are not exclusive and may overlap,” says the plan.

At least two doses

From the plan, individuals will need to receive at least two doses of the vaccine. During the rollout, the Ministry of Health will hold a second dose reserve to ensure that one receives the same vaccine.

To enable individuals and medics to monitor the vaccine delivery and any adverse events following immunisation, the drug will be administered on the left deltoid region as an intramuscular injection.

For phase one, the vaccine will be administered in Level IV, V and VI hospitals estimated at five per cent of the total facilities.

Phase II will focus on administration sites majorly accessed by people with comorbidities. And Phase III will focus on all immunising facilities, government and private.

The first batch of the vaccine expected at mid night is part of 24 million doses Kenya had ordered to vaccinate 20 per cent of its population.

The drug will be flown in by Emirates Airline, a key carrier for the Gavi-led Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) facility.

The flight will touch down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) at 00:05am today (Wednesday).

Once paper work for the 1,500-kilo consignment is completed, it will be transported to Kitengela, the government’s main vaccine depot.

The vaccine will later be deployed to other regional depots including Na-kuru, Eldoret, Kakamega, Meru, Kisumu, Nyeri, Nairobi and Garissa for distribution.