Kenya will vaccinate at least 26 million people against COVID-19 disease by the end of 2022.
President Uhuru Kenyatta made the ambitious announcement Tuesday when he addressed the nation.
“We plan to vaccinate at least 10 million Kenyans by December 2021, and a total of 24 million Kenyans by the end of 2022,” he said.
Mr Kenyatta said the plan includes the delivery of 13 million Johnson and Johnson doses.
“We have secured the purchase of 10 million vaccine doses from Johnson and Johnson,” he said.
Mr Kenyatta said the country had managed to secure the vaccine consignment made up of 13 million doses for the price of 10 million doses.
“In the process of negotiating with the suppliers, we managed to secure 13 million doses for the price of 10 million doses,” said the president.
Mr Kenyatta said the first batch of the J&J vaccines will arrive in the country by August 2021.
He was delivering a status update on the COVID-19 pandemic when he made the remarks.
The head of state also announced plans to vaccinate at least 4 million young people once the vaccines are cleared for this age group.
“If the COVID-19 vaccines are cleared for use in children, we plan to vaccinate 4 million young people,” he said.
President Kenyatta’s announcement comes on the back of the signing of an agreement between Kenya and the World Bank for a Sh 14 billion or USD 130m loan for additional financing to procure COVID-19 vaccines.
Under the financing deal, the vaccines will be purchased via the African Union (AU) the multi-partner COVAX vaccine coalition.
Plans for the vaccination include the construction of 25 county vaccine stores as well as the equipping of 177 hospitals with vaccination storage equipment.
Currently, less than 2 percent of the country with a population of 51 million people is fully vaccinated.
Only 328, 848 adults have received the second dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine that was purchased for the first phase of the vaccination campaign.
Meanwhile, the current COVID-19 caseload figures stand at 183, 603 reported infections and 3,621 deaths.
At the start of the vaccination drive that is meant to protect the people from severe the disease that often requires hospital admissions, oxygen supply and critical care, Kenya was getting its Astra Zeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of Pune, India, under the brand name Covishield.
The campaign using the Astra Zeneca vaccine had been left in limbo following the decision by the Indian government to stop vaccine exports in the wake of a deadly local spike in COVID-19 cases.
Kenya has however received a welcome boost to the immunization drive following the South Sudanese and Danish government donations of more than 450,000 doses.
The 358,000 doses delivered by the Danish government via an Air France flight on June 21 have an expected useful duration or shelf life that ends on July 31, 2021.
With the arrival of the donations, the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program is back on course.
In the drive to give the country the much needed herd immunity, President Kenyatta seems determined not to rest on his current laurels.
He has also announced a plan to expand the country’s capacity for vaccine storage and production through the construction of a vaccine factory.
“To boost our production capacity, we plan to set up a vaccine component and storage facility that will enable us to store vaccine components,” said Mr Kenyatta.
According to the COVID-19 Task Force chair Dr Willis Akhwale, plans for vaccine production in the country are at “an early but promising stage”.
“We have begun the process of setting up a factory which includes drafting a business case and carrying out a feasibility study.
We are now looking for a manufacturer to partner with in the vaccine production,” Dr Akwhale told a local TV station recently.
Dr Akhwale said the government had identified a site for the factory and was looking for ways to finance the project.
According to AMREF Health Africa chief executive Dr Githinji Gitahi, setting up a factory would require considerable funding.
“We need the funds to set up the factory, which could be anywhere between 400 to 500 million USD,” said Dr Gitahi in Nairobi last week.
He added that the venture was not sustainable for the sole purpose of manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines.
“After the COVID-19 pandemic is contained, what else will we do with such a facility?
To make it economically sustainable, we have to think of bringing on board the manufacture of other vaccines, like the measles and polio vaccines that are commonly used in the country,” said Dr Gitahi.