With more than 105,000 Kenyans having tested positive for Covid-19 and 1,856 lives lost as at Sunday, it is a big relief as the first batch of vaccines arrive in the country.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the vaccines are expected at JKIA on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Unicef will support the transportation of medicine to the country’s airport.
The government will make arrangements to take them to the central vaccines stores in Kitengela.
The stores can hold enough stocks of the Covid-19 vaccines to take the country to almost the end of the year.
The government plans to use central storage facilities in Nairobi for vaccines requiring cold chain of up to -20 degrees Celsius and some limited capacity for -70 degrees Celsius in the major urban areas.
The ministry has, however, requested for Sh1.4 billion from the Treasury to expand vaccine storage facilities throughout the country and buy freezers that can store jabs at -70 degrees Celcius.
Head of the Covid-19 vaccine deployment task force Willis Akhwale said available facilities can achieve -20 degrees Celsius and store up to 20 million vials.
“Facilities with -70 are available in Kemri and a few other facilities but they are already holding other biologicals. We do not want to contaminate vaccines with those biologicals,” he said.
Biologicals are products made from or containing components of living organisms.
Akhwale said although Kenya has ordered the AstraZeneca-Oxford jab, it can still buy the Pfizer vaccine once it becomes available and storage is available.
Kagwe said the vaccine will be deployed two weeks after arrival in Kenya but this is highly unlikely as medics have not been trained to administer it.
The government plans to use level 4, 5 and 6 healthcare facilities as they usually have adequate numbers of healthcare workers.
The government had announced plans to build the capacity of more than 23,000 healthcare workers including 8,000 health volunteers in areas of vaccine administration, logistics management, data capture and monitoring.
On WHO’s Vaccine Introduction Readiness Assessment Tool, Kenya records an average score of 33 per cent preparedness for Covid-19 vaccine rollout against a recommended rate of 80 per cent.
The country will also need awareness campaigns to increase demand.
Akhwale said the deployment plan will cost Sh34 billion to cover 30 per cent of the population between March 2021 to June 2023.
Kenya requires 30 million doses to vaccinate 60 per cent of its population as recommended by the global public-private health partnership Gavi.
The vaccine will be administered in three phases. The first phase of vaccine allocation will give priority to the high risk populations.
During this phase, frontline healthcare workers, all staff working in health facilities and workers offering essential services will be inoculated with priority given to sectors such as security.
“A vaccine does not mean that when they are here everyone will get the jab at once,” Kagwe said on Sunday.
“The world does not have enough vaccines at the moment for everybody. The ones we have when they arrive we will start with healthcare workers,” he added.
The second phase is expected to run from July 2021 to June 2022 during which 9.7 million more Kenyans will receive the jab depending on availability.
The target population in this phase will be Kenyans aged above 50 and those above 18 years with underlying health conditions.
Plans by the ministry show the third phase of vaccination could run concurrently with the second phase, depending on availability of adequate vaccines, with the hope of reaching 4.9 million people who will include all other vulnerable populations.
With the current shortage of stocks, the government also plans to procure additional doses to inoculate at least five million more people over the same period to achieve a vaccination coverage of 40 per cent.
The CS has, however, maintained that there will be no mandatory vaccination of people.
“Nobody will be forced to take a vaccine because different people have different attitudes about the whole thing and in a free country you don’t do that.”
As part of preparations for the arrival of the vaccines, the Ministry of ICT has designed a digital platform that will be used to ensure data is captured to track the people who will be vaccinated, the stocks of the vaccines and to monitor the side effects.