By Vanessa Akoth

Kenya has received an additional donation of 407,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine from the United Kingdom (UK) Government bringing the total number of donations by UK to 817,000 doses.

The vaccines which arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi were donated via the COVAX facility and transported by United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

“We are now receiving the second batch of vaccines that have been donated by the United Kingdom Government to boost our national COVID-19 vaccination program,” Dr. Patrick Amoth said while receiving the donations.

“In addition to supporting the ongoing rollout of the COVID vaccines to our health workers, teachers, other essential workers and Kenyans older than 58 years, the vaccines we have received today, will greatly support our target to vaccinate 10 million adults by the end of December 2021. We are therefore very grateful to the United Kingdom Government for this generous donation.”

The donation was agreed on during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to London last month.

The British Deputy High Commissioner Julius Court was elated that the second shipment of COVID-19 vaccines had arrived in the country. He added that their partnership with Kenya on tackling the pandemic is extremely strong and includes donating vaccines, support on genomic sequencing to track new variants, to trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK and Kenya.

“We all need to keep working together to protect ourselves and our families, and the best way to do that is to have the vaccine. I’m pleased we are playing our part through COVAX. This is just the start of 100 million doses we have pledged to donate across the world by next June,” said Court.

The roll out of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign is being led by the Ministry of Health (MoH), with support from World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, Gavi and other partners. As well as procuring and transporting COVID-19 vaccines, UNICEF is supporting MoH in the distribution of the vaccines, procuring, deploying and managing the vaccines’ cold chain equipment. UNICEF and WHO are also supporting MoH with planning, technical support, capacity building, risk communication and community engagement.

“UNICEF is committed and remains a steadfast partner to the Government of Kenya in its efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, we are delighted to offer our full support in the transport and logistical arrangements for getting vital COVID-19 vaccines to Kenya and quickly distributing them within,” UNICEF Chief of Health Yaron Wolman said.

“Vaccines are the game changers in this effort. But no one is safe until everyone is safe, especially with new and more infectious variants of the virus emerging. Vaccine equity is essential if we are to level the playing field and ensure that everyone at risk from COVID-19 gets vaccinated, wherever they are.”

WHO urged the public to maintain public health measures while the roll out of national vaccination campaign continues.

“Thanks to this donation from the UK, Kenyans have yet another opportunity to get either their first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine,” WHO Health Specialist Sergon Kibet said.

“We urge all identified groups, to take advantage of it and help us to come closer to ending this pandemic. Getting vaccinated is a choice and responsibility and I can assure all Kenyans that these vaccines are safe and effective. It is also essential that we continue with public health measures such as mask wearing, regular hand washing, social distancing and avoiding congested spaces and gathering.”