NAIROB I, Kenya, Apr 2- The Ministry of Health on Friday reported 19 new COVID-19 deaths that occurred on diverse dates pushing fatalities to 2,186 on a day that the government banned importation, distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines by private enterprises.
Effectively, health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said licenses issud for the importation, distribution and administration of Russia’s Sputnik V have been revoked.
“The committee noted that co-participation of the private sector in the vaccination exercise now threatens the gains made in the fight against COVID-19 and we risk having counterfeit vaccines in the market,” said Mutahi Kagwe, Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary after charing the COVID-19 National Emergency Response Committee (NERC) meeting.
He stressed that the government was fully committed in safeguarding the health of Kenyans and warned that those found violating the directive “will be dealt with accordingly.”
Kagwe said that 1,597 patients were admitted in various hospitals across the country among them 185 in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
“We have increases in the number of people in ICU, most needing oxygen and therefore matters regarding COVID-19 are still high priority,” he said.
He further announced that 1,851 more people tested positive for the virus, bringing the total caseload to 136, 893.
The positivity rate stood at 19.1 percent.
363 patients were discharged after recovering from the virus among them 215 from Home Based Care and 148 from health facilities raising recoveries to 93,430.
The decision to ban the importation and use of vaccines other than Astrazenneca by the government follows the publicity received by Russia’s Sputnik V which was rolled out in the country last week, mainly targetting the rich.
The Pharmacy and Poisons Board had confirmed approving the vaccine, but for emergency use only, saying marketing approval had not been issued.
The Kenyan government is admInistering the AstraZeneca vaccines acquired through the global COVAX facility.
More than 160,000 people, including President Uhuru Kenyatta have taken the jab that iniially targetted frontline workers before it was opened up for other categories and people aged over 58.
But even as Kenyatta rallied Kenyans to take the vaccine and his Deputy Wiliam Ruto and other influential people opted for the Sputnik V.
Lawyers Ahmendassir Abdullahi and Donald Kipkorir were the first to get the Russian jab.
Reports indicate that the Russian vaccine has not been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Globally, questions have been raised on the efficac of the AstraZenneca vaccine after several cases of blood clots and deaths were reported in European countries, most of which have suspended its use.
South Africa announced last month it had stopped the use of the AstraZenneca vaccine because it was not effective on the variant detected in the country.
Kenya has said all vaccines administered in the country will be imported, distributed and administerd by the government.
“We must ensure that the protection of the use of vaccines is first and foremost on the list. It does not matter on whether other people want to make incomes out of it,” he said.
Director of Public Health Patrick Amoth however assured that Kenyans who have already been vaccinated with the Russian Sputnik Vaccine will be able to get the second dose even as its rollout now stands jeopardized.
“But remember also in a pandemic situation the national public health security takes precedence over anything else including business demands,” he said.
Sputnik V which is reported to have an efficacy level of about 92 percent, is the first such private consignment in Kenya that is being administered through a private pharmacy.
For maximum protection, it requires two doses sold at Sh5, 500 a dose which will be administered 21 days apart.
On Friday, The United Kingdom issued new restrictions on travel from Kenya in measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19.
A statement issued by the UK High Commission in Kenya said anyone traveling from Kenya or has transited through Kenya in the past 10 days will not be allowed entry into the UK from April 9.
“There are new restrictions for entering the UK from Kenya. From 0400 UK time on 9 April, visitors who have been in or transited through Kenya in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England,” the High Commission tweeted Friday.
Kenya said it had sought clarification from the UK through the Foreign Affairs Ministry and will make a decision, which may include a retaliation.