Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged to support Kenya’s efforts in the fight against Covid-19 disease including the acquisition of more vaccines.
Speaking during a virtual meeting with health cabinet secretary Mutahi Kagwe, the Tony Blair Institute founder and executive chairman said he will engage international partners and leaders with a view of acquiring more vaccine doses for Kenya.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe assured Blair of the country’s commitment to enhance her capacity by investing in the health sector through targeted reforms.
Among the measures meant to enhance the country’s capacity to deal with Covid-19 disease according to the CS includes the improvement of piping infrastructure within health facilities across the country, increase of local capacity to manufacture vaccines as well as the construction of more oxygen plants.
“There was a challenge in use of reagents due to locked machines. We are now more efficient because we are employing both rapid diagnostic kits as well as Real-time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase chain reaction to conduct Covid-19 tests,” Kagwe said.
Kagwe saying, as a regional center, Kenya is now seeking to upscale its genome sequencing capacity. This even as he called for support to help establish a form and fill facility to help address uncertainties in the supply of the vaccines.
“We do not have a skills gap. We have the KEMRI laboratories that produce livestock vaccines. The only challenge could be on the filling of the vials,” observed the health CS.
The heath CS highlighted on the challenge of global supply of the Covishield vaccine that is in use in the country. “Africa expected 74 million doses of Covishield through the covax facility. Only 12 million doses have so far been received,” said Kagwe.
Blair promised to support Kenya build capacity through discussions with relevant authorities including organising a meeting with one of the researchers who worked with Oxford University in the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine. This besides engaging global leaders on the availability of extra doses that could be diverted to the country to support ongoing vaccination efforts.
Speaking at the same forum, head of Communicable disease prevention and Control division Dr. Joseph Sitienei said Kenya has embraced technology by adopting digital platforms to address some of its health challenges. This includes the Chanjo health system, which has been developed locally, and is now generating Covid-19 vaccination certificates.
“The government is now prioritising last mile connectivity to connect more hospitals with rural ones through linkage of skills to help them conduct delicate procedures especially in far flung areas,” said Sitienei.