Britain on Wednesday, December 30, approved the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, a development for Kenya that plans to buy millions of doses of the same.
Kenya has been keeping tabs of the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the Kenya Medical Research Institute Wellcome Trust – Kilifi.
The vaccine – ChAdOx(AZD1222) – is said to be suitable for Kenya as it can be stored under temperatures of between 2°C and 8°C.
Britain becomes the first nation to give the jab a green light as it battles a major winter surge driven by a new, highly contagious variant of coronavirus.
The vaccine is however yet to be approved by the European Union since it does not have the required paperwork for roll out in the continent, something that may delay Kenya’s acquisition of the vaccine.
Despite the planned rollout of the vaccine in January, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) deputy executive director Noël Wathion said the drug could not even be given a conditional marketing license.
According to AstraZeneca, the authorization was for a two-dose regime and the vaccine had been approved for use for emergency supply. Britain has so far ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine.
“The government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorize Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use,” the health ministry said.
A week ago, the government of Kenya said it will spend Sh10 billion to purchase 12 million doses of the vaccine.
Health Acting Director-General Patric Amoth said the low price of the vaccine compared to other vaccines was one of the major reasons Kenya went for it.
He also noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine was also suitable for the country’s cold drain logistics since it can be stored under temperatures of between 2°C and 8°C.
“The other two vaccines require a unique cold chain system that most countries do not have, ” he said in reference to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Amoth noted that safety, immunogenicity and efficacy were the three main thresholds the country considered to settle on the vaccine.
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“We want a vaccine that is vector carrier developed, WHO prequalified and cold chain that we can sustain, that is between 2°C and 8°C, and also the lowest price. If you look at all those parameters, Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine ticks all, except maybe one, as we await the WHO prequalification,” he said.
Those likely to receive the vaccination against the virus in the country include 430,000 health workers, 5.3 million elderly persons, 4.4 million with pre-existing conditions like diabetes and hypertension, and 830,000 teachers and police officers.
Kenya is also planning to receive 24 million doses of the vaccine being a member of the Covax vaccine accelerator program undertaken by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.