Wealthy Kenyans will start getting Covid-19 jabs from private hospitals in July after the government strikes an import deal with a global partnership under the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe told Parliament Thursday that the talks would conclude end of June, paving the way for top private hospitals to join in the second phase of the inoculation plan set for July.
The government seeks to create an option for private hospitals to acquire the vaccines and charge a “minimum surcharge” in the race to broaden inoculation coverage.
Backers of the new initiative reckon it will provide vaccines to vulnerable and wealthy persons who could miss out or are not eligible to be inoculated under the ongoing government scheme.
“The plan is to have this framework by end of June this year so that the private sector joins the roll-out plan in July this year, when we fully actualise phase two of the deployment,” Mr Kagwe said.
Pharmaceutical giants behind the sought-after jabs are restricting sale to the private sector and have given priority to supplies to governments and multilateral organisations like Covax — which hopes to deliver two billion doses to poor countries.
This restriction has seen a number of tycoons, politicians and royalty from across the world descend in recent months on the United Arab Emirates, where friends in high places have helped them secure early access to coronavirus vaccines.
In Kenya, the government hopes to have 16 million people inoculated over the next two years with the priority being health workers, the elderly and the vulnerable.
Only a “small minority” who wish to pay for the shots would have the option in the controlled private market.
Kenya is offering the Covid-19 vaccine shots free of charge to its citizens at $7.70 (Sh845.80) per shot as negotiated under the Covax facility.
Kenya requires Sh34 billion to ship in 36 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines by June next year when it expects to have 16 million people inoculated.
Donors will provide Sh20 billion, leaving Kenya to seek Sh14 billion from taxes.
The country in early March received 1.02 million doses, enough for slightly more than 500,000 people requiring two doses eight to 12 weeks apart. Over 339,893 people had been vaccinated with a majority being health workers, teachers and security officers.
The second phase would involve 9.7 million people — comprising people aged above 50 years and those aged above 18 years with underlying medical conditions — between July this year and next June.
The third phase, to unfold concurrently with the second, will be aimed at 4.9 million people, including those living in congested areas and seen as particularly vulnerable.
The race to allow private hospitals import the coronavirus jab comes even after the government banned two companies from shipping and administering Sputnik V shots from Russia.
Mr Kagwe added that Harley’s Ltd and Unisel Pharma Ltd were banned for violating guidelines because the vaccines are still under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) that bars the sale drugs.
The two firms had shipped 75,000 doses and a single shot went for at least Sh7,700 ($70). The Ministry of Health, however, said that 527 persons who had received the first dose of the Sputnik V will get their second shot.
“Gains made in the fight against the pandemic may be reversed by the introduction of counterfeit vaccines,” Mr Kagwe said.