Kenya received a consignment of 1.02 million units of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday night marking a significant step for Kenya in the fight against Covid-19 almost a year after the first positive case was confirmed in the country. The vaccine is meant to significantly boost the fight against the deadly virus that has infected over 107,000 and killed over 1800 Kenyans.
According to the Ministry of Health, frontline workers such as medics, police and teachers will be the first to receive the vaccine. Next in line will be individuals with underlying conditions that make them vulnerable to coronavirus. This approach borrows from countries like the United Kingdom that prioritized frontline workers and the vulnerable elderly in the first phase of the roll out of the vaccine, a strategy being employed by the Ministry too, which gave assurance that the rest of the population will be covered in subsequent batches.
While this is a step in the direction, there have been concerns from various quarters over the distribution, management and accountability of the vaccine roll out in the country. These concerns have been vocalized by members of the civil society, the public in the online sphere and even some legislators who worry that corruption threatens the equitable distribution of these vaccines and whether the funds involved in their acquisition and distribution will be well accounted for.
As it stands right now, Parliament, through its committees has held tens of meetings with officials from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) and the Ministry of Health over the irregular procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for health care workers that were worth Ksh 7.8 billion. To this day, not a single person has been charged for the crime as new revelations, each day, proving how deep corruption ran in this process. With the public trust having been eroded over time, who’s to expect a different outcome with the handling of the Covid-19 vaccine this time around?
Another issue that also came out when the government sought to acquire PPEs, was the initial poor coordination between national government and county governments. The lack of proper coordination between the ministry and counties resulted in delayed and unequal distribution of the PPEs leading to the infection and deaths of a significant number of health care workers. In addition to this, some counties identified that they were growing hotspots of the virus when it was rather too late to contain it. The two levels of government are, therefore, being called upon to change the narrative by finding a fair and well-coordinated distribution mechanism that can be accounted for to the very last detail. Furthermore, counties will need to enhance their contact tracing techniques to ensure Kenyans receive the two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca required to ensure the vaccination is done conclusively.
It has also been alleged that there is a possibility of the political elite being included in the first priority group to receive the vaccine. Whether authenticated or not, these fears cannot be downplayed if one is to use the manner in which testing of the virus was being done initially as a benchmark. The prices of the tests were so steep that it deterred a good number of Kenyans from easily accessing the services. The resultant effect was that majority asymptomatic Kenyans could not take the test hence spreading the virus even more. The government should therefore ensure that they roll out the vaccine in the adherence to their priority list to avoid foul play.
Finally, on the matter of accountability, the government ought to ensure full transparency in the process. Oversight bodies should remain vigilant to ensure that every dose can be accounted for. Any foul play tolerated at this point, literally threatens the wellbeing and lives of Kenyans and as such, should be fought at all costs.