NAIROBI, Kenya, May 21-The Japanese Government has donated Sh212 million to Kenya to help improve the cold chain capacity for COVID-19 vaccines roll-out.
Officials said this is part of Sh1.2 billion grants to 11 countries in the East and Southern Africa region.
Kenya is administering the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, having acquired the initial 1.02 million doses through the COVAX facility. Officials at the Ministry of Health said the government was facing challenges transporting vaccine doses to far-flung remote counties due to lack of cold room facilities.
In a statement, the Japanese Embassy in Nairobi said the funding will support the Government in its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, especially through the procurement of equipment for vaccine storage, distribution and continuous temperature monitoring.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya, Japan has been contributing to the fight against the virus by providing medical equipment and PCR test kits,” said Horie Ryoichi, Japanese Ambassador to Kenya.
“Japan is now committed to supporting the improvement of the vaccination programmes all over the world by contributing about Sh21.2 billion to the COVAX facility, an international mechanism led by Gavi, CEPI, WHO and UNICEF,” he said.
This will include storage for vaccines that require “ultra-cold” temperatures as well as be used to support the installation of new equipment and provide training to the healthcare workers on how to operate the equipment.
“However, having the vaccination itself, has no meaning if the country does not have sound cold chain capacity,” Ambassador Ryoichi added.
“That’s why we decided to provide this emergency grant to ensure equitable access and swift distribution of vaccines in Kenya.Japan has decided to co-host the Vaccine Summit on 2nd June, and I am sure that we will continue to contribute towards the global fight against COVID-19 including the enhancement of vaccine access,” he said.
UNICEF Representative to Kenya Maniza Zaman said the new funding provided by Japan will provide a vital boost to the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in Kenya, while also protecting routine immunisation for children and strengthening the health system.
“As we work to leave no-one behind, we must ensure that vaccinesreach those in greatest need, wherever they live. Vaccines also protect the health care workers, teachers and parents who care for 2 children. This new funding provided by Japan will provide a vital boost to the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in Kenya, while also protecting routine immunisation for children and strengthening the health system,” she said.
As the largest vaccine buyer in the world, UNICEF has been selected as the lead procurement and supply agency for COVAX.
In Kenya, UNICEF is also supporting the Ministry of Health on its vaccine communication campaign, ‘Pata Chanjo ya Tumaini’, and on strengthening the cold chain system, which benefits millions of children in Kenya every year.