Kenya set to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines

Kenya is set to start local manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines by April next year as it seeks to cushion its citizens from future supply hitches. Supply hitches had derailed efforts to vaccinate its adult population.

Speaking in Machakos during the inauguration of the new Kenya Biovax Institute board, Health cabinet secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the setting up of the vaccine production plant was meant to address the vulnerability of the country to future health emergencies as was evident during the Coronavirus pandemic that left the country as well as the continent grossly exposed from shortage of vaccines.

“As you already know, we currently import over 70% of the country’s medical products, including Vaccines and Biologicals. This sometimes means that we are unable to access these essential supplies due to logistical issues not forgetting that importation consumes a significant chunk of our health budget. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges associated with lack of local capacity in this area,” Kagwe told the board.

The CS said the local manufacturing of highly specialized Healthcare products by institutions such as the Kenya Biovax Institute will be a significant step towards self-sustenance in supply and availability of medical commodities.

“The Local production of human vaccines will support public healthcare programmes, National and regional economic growth, National security as well as enhance the capacity to control disease outbreaks that may arise in the future,” observed Kagwe.

The health CS says the venture will kick off with a form and fill facility at the production plant located at the new KEMSA headquarters in Embakasi Nairobi which will help third parties put vaccines from the main manufacturers into vials before packaging them for distribution.

“It is safe to say that the basic legal and industrial requirements for local fill and finish manufacturing of vaccines have been largely achieved. The development of wholly local vaccine production process has been initiated with support of KEMRI who will remain the main partner in capacity building”, said the health CS.

He challenged the board to reinforce the governance principles envisioned in the Mwongozo code to ensure that the institute is not caught up in any corruption or leadership scandals as has happened in a number of public institutions.

Kenya has already initiated negotiations with a host of countries as well as vaccine manufacturing companies to actualize the plan that will see the establishment of a full-fledged bulk antigen production facility with a capacity to produce different types of vaccines. The country is also working on capacity building with a focus on research and development.

During his eighth state of the nation address in parliament on 30th November 2021, President Kenyatta said Kenya had set out to implement the lesson of self-reliance which was one of the key learning points of the Pandemic. He said the country has already established the Kenya Biovax Institute Limited as a venture that would locally produce anti COVID-19 vaccines as a first step towards actualizing the objective.

“I therefore directed the Ministry of Health to operationalize the company to ‘form and fill’ and eventual manufacture of our locally produced vaccine by Easter of 2022,” The president stated.

According to the National Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment Plan, Kenya aims to have fully-fledged vaccine manufacturing capability by 2024.

Story produced by the MOH Communication team

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