Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine

Vials of the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine are pictured during vaccination in Gaza City on March 25, 2021. 

| Mohammed Abed | AFP

Queries as hospitals start giving out controversial Covid jab

What you need to know:

  • Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi and lawyer Donald Kipkorir said they had received their doses.
  • Russian vaccine is available at Bliss Medical Centres in Nairobi and Kisii, and Apples and Senses on Muthaiga Road, Nairobi.

The controversy surrounding the Russian Covid-19 vaccine in Kenya deepened yesterday after hospitals started administering it even as the Health ministry insisted it had not approved its distribution.

Two prominent lawyers were among Kenyans who went public with their Sputnik V vaccination, with photographic evidence to boot, just hours after acting Health Director-General Patrick Amoth told senators and MPs that the vaccine was still being kept under lock and key in warehouses.

Hours earlier, the Russian government had distanced itself from the vaccine deal, saying “it is the obligation of the private importers to follow all the regulations of Kenyan authorities and act in compliance with the legislation of the Republic of Kenya”.

“All questions related to this private commercial importation of the vaccine should be addressed directly to its importers in Kenya,” it states.

The developments came days after the Nation reported that the vaccine had been sneaked into Kenyan hospitals without proper approvals.

Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi and lawyer Donald Kipkorir said they had received their jabs at a private clinic in Nairobi, confirming earlier reports that the vaccine had left warehouses.

“Today, I became the Second Kenya to take the Russia COVID-19 Sputnik V vaccine ... I have full confidence in the vaccine to protect me from all COVID-19 variants,” Mr Kipkorir tweeted.

Cleared for distribution

He said they booked for the jab through the website. According to information on the site, the Russian vaccine is available at Bliss Medical Centres in Nairobi and Kisii, and Apples and Senses on Muthaiga Road, Nairobi.

The vaccine imported by Dinlas Pharma EPZ Limited was approved for emergency by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, the Kenyan regulator, but the ministry’s greenlight for its rollout is pending.

Dr Amoth yesterday told the joint Health committee of the Senate and the National Assembly that Dinlas Pharma EPZ was yet to meet the conditions set for commercial vaccines.

Before a vaccine is cleared for distribution, the distributor is required to register users on the government-run Chanjo site to enable the ministry track the number of people taking the vaccine and any side effects.

The distributor is also required to sign a technical agreement stipulating the responsibilities of all the parties involved in its administration, and training health care workers on administration.

Kenya, Dr Amoth said, is only keen on buying vaccines that are prequalified for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO)  and Sputnik V is not yet one of them, although it is already in use in multiple countries across the globe. 

He said for the ministry to authorise the usage of a vaccine that is not in the WHO list like Sputnik V, it will take longer because it has to meet all the safety, efficacy and quality requirements. 

Safety and efficacy

“Our focus as country has been to go for vaccines in the WHO list, this is because all the works including safety and efficacy have been done for us and on behalf of global community,” he said.

The vaccine, which has a 92 per cent efficacy, is Kenya’s first commercial Covid jab and is being administered to clients willing to cough up Sh8,000 per shot, according to various reports. 

But without the WHO approval, Sputnik V cannot and has not been be adopted to Kenya’s national vaccine programme. 

“Our guidelines stipulate that for a vaccine to be adopted in our national vaccination program it must be approved by WHO,” Dr Willis Akhwale, the vaccine advisory task force chairman, told the Nation in a past interview. 

Yesterday, Dr Amoth clarified that apart from AstraZeneca, which was donated through the Covax facility, Kenya is considering buying the Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine. “This is a single shot vaccine hence reducing the cost and given that it was also produced in South Africa, makes it more suitable for our population,” Dr Amoth said.

Ms Sabina Chege, Health Committee chairperson, promised that the leaders would get to the bottom of the matter.  

“There are so many narratives, I would want to know who exactly has received Sputnik V vaccine, where and how, we will get to the bottom of the matter,” she said.  

The ministry, however, maintains that it is not party to any agreement allowing distribution and sale of the Russian vaccine to Kenyans. 


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