On March 29, 2021, renowned lawyers Ahmednassir Abdillahi and Donald Kipkorir posted photos taken while receiving the Sputnik V vaccine. This was the clear proof of the musical chairs that were beginning to take positions as the country continued to battle with Covid 19.
This bold move not only blew the lid off the government’s attempt to keep the matter quiet but also confirmed that the vaccine was in the country and on sale.
“First Kenyan to receive the Sputnik V vaccine, an elated and proud Mr Abdillahi wrote on his post.
The photos of the two lawyers who maintain an active and popular online presence through often controversial posts quickly trended on the interwebs.
In taking the photos, the pair conclusively disproved the official narrative and deliberately or unwittingly became poster boys for the Russian jab.
Later that day, Deputy President William Ruto also posted vaccination photos on his Facebook page, which netizens associated with the Russian jab.
Despite the photos sparking varied reactions from Kenyans online, Dr Ruto is yet to confirm whether it was Sputnik V he received or a different vaccine.
Vigorous debates laced with half-truths, rumours and innuendo have since ensued on the online arena, with the Sputnik vaccine being labelled the jab for the rich who can afford to pay 15,400 for two shots.
Cabinet Administrative Secretary Dr Mercy Mwangangi went on the defensive, flatly denying media reports of the presence of the Russian vaccine.
“We do not have the Sputnik vaccine on sale in the country. All the advertisements related to the jab are fake,” she said during the MoH Covid-19 briefing.
The CAS, who normally avoids getting sucked into controversial issues at the ministry, has this week found herself in the unfamiliar territory of defending a shaky government position on Sputnik.
Acting director-general of health Dr Patrick Amoth also backed her position, flatly denying the presence and sale of the Russian jab in Kenya.
“No one has been vaccinated with Sputnik V in the country,” he said during a telephone interview with a local television station.
Meanwhile, the Pharmacy and Poisons’ Board issued a notice confirming it had granted emergency medical authorization for Sputnik V, further throwing the official script on the vaccine into a spin.
Sputnik’s entry into the Kenyan market has raised the question of whether it was a commercial masterstroke by well-connected entrepreneurs keen to cash in on the weak and unreliable national vaccine supply chain.
The Sputnik V About-Turn
In an embarrassing about-turn, the government admitted on April 1, 2021, that Sputnik is on sale and issued a tough set of rules for the suppliers.
Covid-19 Vaccination Advisory Board chair Dr Willis Akhwale said the suppliers will among other requirements be expected to update the vaccination register on the government’s Chanjo Portal.
The suppliers must provide us with batch numbers of vaccines so far imported and given to Kenyans, and update these details on the Chanjo Kenya portals. Failure to comply with these and other rules could result in the EMA being revoked,” said Dr Akhwale.
The government rules stipulate that the firm must ensure that all the people who received the first shot complete their dose by getting the second shot.
On April 2, 2021, Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe announced a ban on the private importation of Covid -19 vaccines.
Now Dr Mwangangi has once more come out in defence of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, even as Kenyans online continue to debate on the better option between the Astra Zeneca and Sputnik V jabs.
Speaking on a local television news show, she dismissed a commonly held misconception on vaccines, saying none was better than the other.
Dr Mwangangi said there were no reliable studies to prove which of the vaccines was the best.
“No studies worth noting or have been done to determine which vaccine is the best,” said Dr Mwangangi.
“All these online claims (on the best vaccines) are false perceptions. No one can say that one vaccine is better than the other,” added the CAS.
She cautioned Kenyans who have been vaccinated with the Russian jab from suffering from a false sense of security.
“There are pictures of people getting the Sputnik vaccine that has been shared online. Do not try and be under the impression that you are safer because you got what you thought was a ‘better’ vaccine,” said Dr Mwangangi.
There is Hope in Getting The Vaccine…
There is a delay in getting the second batch of the Astrazeneca vaccines. The delay was caused by a spike in Covid-19 cases in India, forcing the government to put a temporary stop to vaccine exports by the Serum Institute, which is one of the largest global suppliers of the Astra Zeneca vaccine.
Speaking to the press on the eve of the Easter holiday, Dr Rashid Aman said the government would receive the second batch of the vaccines in May.
His comments come in the wake of a delay in the shipment that was originally slated to arrive in the country on March 30, 2021.
Dr Aman said the second batch would arrive in the country in May, adding that Kenya planned to bring in a total of 20 million doses within the current financial year.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to give the country an Sh251bn loan to fund the Covid-19 vaccination drive.
For now, as Kenya awaits to vaccinate as many people as possible, Dr Mwangangi is advising, “Let’s wash hands, sanitize, keep social distance and take the vaccine when our turn comes, she says.