On vaccination, the Sputnik V saga demonstrates much
On Friday, the Daily Nation reported that Dinlas Pharma EPZ Ltd, the importers of the Sputnik V vaccine, is seeking authorization to export it from Kenya after the Government threw roadblocks in its way.
The exportation of the vaccine is likely to end a saga that has left many asking whether the Government threw out an opportunity for Kenyans to get access to the Covid-19 vaccine for political reasons.
Officially, Sputnik V was stopped because of three officious reasons: its backers did not submit information about where it would be administered, who would administer it and did not link up with Chanjo.ke, the Ministry of Health’s internet platform for monitoring administration of the vaccine.
Instead, it seemed, they decided to use influential Kenyans to advertise the vaccine, and the first people to receive it were lawyers Ahmednassir Abdullahi and Donald Kipkorir, and accompanied it with posts on Twitter, where they both have large followings.
Next was Deputy President William Ruto, and that is where the issue, at least politically, appears to have been.
Days after the Ministry of Health stopped administration of the vaccine, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot posted on Twitter that the Deputy President had been left out of a vaccination session for the Cabinet.
Politics aside, the Sputnik V vaccine had offered an opportunity, not only for Dinlas to make money, but for a significant section of the population to receive protection against Covid-19.
It is understood that the importers of the vaccine, who had 75,000 doses in their refrigerators, had in mind Nairobi-based corporates and affluent individuals when they brought in the vaccine from Gamaleya.
They had figured that corporates would have had no problem paying for their staff, some as many as 6,000, to receive the vaccine at a go. This would have enabled them to cut back on expenses incurred over the past year in distributing staff across various sites, fumigating offices and in some cases in the treatment and care of those who got infected. They also had in mind the middle class, which would have preferred paying KSh8,000 to scrambling for the Government vaccine as has been happening.
The discomfort over the Sputnik V vaccine increases the problem the Government has had even with its free vaccine, which started being offered to the public after health workers failed to take it up in the numbers expected.
Sources within the Ministry of Health say that the Government is keen on having the planned second and third phases of vaccination collapsed into one, and on having the entire adult population vaccinated by the end of the year.
This is because the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic is a significant legacy issue for President Uhuru Kenyatta.
As the Sputnik V saga has illustrated, the Government’s commitment to meeting this target cannot be stated enough until enough has been done for it to be seen in action.