Kenya’s COVID-19 vaccination programme has been hampered by outright cheating, confusion and profiteering.
“Vaccine nationalism” or the hoarding of vaccine supplies by Western countries at the expense of poorer populations in much of the rest of the world has predictably led not just to a shortage of supplies within the richer states, including members of the European Union, but crucially, it has meant that access remains an even bigger obstacle for poorer countries.
In Kenya the pandemic has also turned out to be a cash cow for politically connected “tenderpreneurs” who have quickly established companies for the sole purpose of stealing some of the $71m allocated to buy emergency personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and hospitals across the country. Elected officials have got together to hatch schemes that funnelled money from the public purse into their pockets.
The vaccine rollout plan involved three phases, the last two of which were to run concurrently. In phase one, between February and June 2021, 1.25 million health workers, security and immigration officials would be vaccinated. In phases two and three, from July 2021 to June 2022, nearly 10 million over-50s and over-18s with underlying health conditions and five million of those considered vulnerable, such as those in informal settlements, would be immunised. The plan quickly fell apart almost as soon as its rollout began. Politicians self-servingly demanded that they should be given priority. They were swiftly joined in the queue-jumping by other members of the the elite, businessmen, civil servants and even journalists, safe in the impunity that has always shielded them from accountability.
Different factions within the government pushing different vaccines. While one faction backs the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which was being rolled out, another has procured Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and begun to distribute it using private facilities. The state has now banned the private importation of vaccines, arguing that it is safeguarding against counterfeits. Though that is a danger that should not be discounted, there has not been a suggestion that what was in the market was fake. Further, rather than tighten its regulatory regime, the state is throwing out the baby with the bathwater, further reducing, rather than expanding, the stock of vaccines accessible to the population.