COVID-19 vaccine: Private entity imports Sputnik V for commercial use

Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine

By: Rashid Abubakar  @MountKenyaTimes

Just a week after Kenya confirmed it had approved emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V CPVOD-19 vaccine for emergency use; a private entity in the country has imported the vaccine on a commercial basis.

The Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Kenya says it’s the obligation of the private importers to strictly follow all the regulations of the Kenyan authorities and act in compliance with the legislation of the Government of Kenya.

Further, the Embassy clarified that all questions relating to the private commercial importation of the vaccine should be addressed directly to the importers in Kenya.

However, the embassy did not provide the identity or contact details of the aforementioned private entity.

The Embassy was however quick to clarify there is no agreement between the government of Kenya and Russia for the importation and use of the Sputnik V vaccine.

Last Wednesday, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board said it had approved Sputnik V vaccine barely two weeks after the government launched a nationwide vaccination drive for AstraZeneca vaccine.

On whether Kenya plans to purchase the vaccine, the board said the decision lies with the Ministry of Health.

“The Pharmacy and Poisons Board role is the authorization and safety monitoring of medicines and health technologies. It’s the duty of the Ministry of Health as guided by the National Vaccine and immunization programme to determine what vaccine (s) to buy based on factors, such as, cost and cold chain considerations,” the board said.

Russia has developed three vaccines — Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona and CoviVac though most of the attention has focused on Sputnik, named after the first satellite launched into space by the Soviet Union.

The vaccine has been registered under the emergency use authorization procedure and is is one of only three vaccines in the world with an efficacy of over 90 percent.

According to reports, those interested in getting the vaccine would have to part with Ksh. 11,000 for the requisite two doses which would be administered 21 days apart.

The same day the news rent the air, the Ministry of Health said that there was no vaccine currently approved for sale in Kenya.

Earlier this month, Kenya received just over one million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, which was manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, under the UN-led Covax initiative which is assisting poorer countries to receive the medicine.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta last Friday received their first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination at State House, Nairobi.

The live televised vaccination exercise also saw a handful of Cabinet ministers including Interior’s Fred Matiang’i and his Health Counterpart Mutahi Kagwe among other members of the executive vaccinated.

The jab came a day after the government announced plan to include those who are 58-years and above to the priority list.

The initial plan was to reach frontline workers, among them healthcare workers, teachers and those in the armed forces with the jab as they have a higher risk of contracting the virus based on the nature of their job.

The government said it would prioritise those aged 58-years and above in the ongoing phase one of the Covid-19 vaccination drive.

As a result, hundreds of residents have thronged different County hospitals with hope of being vaccinated against Covid-19 disease.

Majority of those who are turning up for the exercise are the elderly who says they were honoring the President’s directive of vaccinating those aged 58 years and above.

However, a large number are being turned away as health workers at the facilities sought to control the surging numbers in line with Covid-19 protocols.

On Monday, Murang’a County hospital Medical Superintendent Dr. Leonard Gikera called on the government to deploy more vaccine doses to counties.

“The doses we have are not enough and there is a need to add more as the aged are given priority in the administration of the vaccine,” said Dr Gikera.

According to Dr Gikera, resident were initially reluctant to get vaccinated, but the recent surge in Covid-19 cases appears to have changed their minds and now want the jab.

“We have witnessed a large number of the locals who want to be immunised against Covid-19,” he said.

Confusion over Sputnik V vaccine

The Ministry of Health acting Director General of Health Dr. Patrick Amoth while appearing before the Health Committee said Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine is yet to be approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to Dr. Amoth, the vaccine has not been pre-qualified by WHO which means it may take a much longer time to be approved for emergency use in Kenya as it has not met the agreed standards as required.

“Any pre-qualified vaccine approval takes less than a week for emergency authorization use, it takes a longer time for a vaccine that is not pre-qualified by the WHO, since there are set out steps that have to be followed for such an approval,” Dr Amoth said.

He however noted that there is a possibility of a vaccine being used without approval by the WHO provided it had passed other stringent tests.

Dr. Amoth noted that the Moderna vaccine-widely used in the United States- was also yet to be approved by the WHO, but it had passed efficacy and safety tests in America.

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