Kenya blocks private Covid vaccine imports for fear of counterfeiting

Kenya has stopped the private import and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines as it is necessary to safeguard against the possible introduction of counterfeit doses and to ensure “more transparency and accountability”.

Licenses granted to private hospitals and clinics to administer the vaccines have been revoked and any facility that advertises or vaccinates people for a fee will be prosecuted, the National Emergency Response Committee for coronavirus said Friday evening.

“The participation of the private sector in the vaccination exercise jeopardizes the profits made in the fight against Covid-19 and endangers the country internationally if counterfeit goods enter the Kenyan market,” said a statement signed by Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe.

The suspension comes days after private health facilities started giving Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and were charged up to $ 70 for a shot. While the vaccine had received emergency approval in Kenya, there was confusion when some health officials said the bumps were not approved for commercial sale.

Authorities said those who received the first dose of vaccine under private plans would receive their second dose when due, but did not say how.

Last month, Kenya received its first Covid-19 vaccines – over a million doses of the AstraZeneca Oxford shot delivered by the global Covax initiative. Almost 200,000 doses have been given to date, with most going to health workers, security officers and teachers, and those over 58.

However, the first batch of Covax vaccines came a month late and the next shipment, expected this month, is already facing delays.

“There is an expectation that they will fully start again in May and that the catch-up process will accelerate after that,” a Covax spokesman said in a statement.

The suspension also comes as Kenya sees a third wave of soaring infection rates, rising deaths and scarce beds in intensive care units. To curb the spread, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a partial lockdown last week, including prolonged curfews, closings of bars and schools and limiting travel in Nairobi, the capital and surrounding counties.

On Friday, the British Embassy in Kenya announced that travelers who have been in Kenya or have traveled through Kenya in the past 10 days will be refused entry to England from April 9. UK, Irish, and resident third country nationals must be quarantined for 10 days in a government approved facility.

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