The discovery of a Covid-19 vaccine and subsequent questions over its efficacy remains of interest to many Kenyans ahead of President Kenyatta’s State the Nation address to Parliament later this afternoon.
Politics and economics aside, a section of citizens want the President to state the country’s position on the new Covid-19 vaccine developed by US giant pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech.
This week the companies announced the first effective coronavirus vaccine that prevents more than 90% of people from contacting Covid-19. The developers – Pfizer and BioNTech – described it as a “great day for science and humanity”.
However, with the world celebrating the breakthrough amid soaring global cases, some global experts are concerned that the public is getting an incomplete picture about the vaccine’s success that doesn’t reveal critical information, such as which demographic groups it protected and whether it was from a mild or severe form of the virus.
“As a scientist, you’d want to see actual data from a clinical trial to really know what the actual interpretation of the results are,” says Aliasger K. Salem, chair of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Iowa.
Kenya’s Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has come under fire for his reservations. Reacting to a clip of him casting doubt about the efficacy of the vaccine that went viral, the CS maintained that Kenyan taxpayer’s money will not be committed to pre-order vaccine candidate which is yet to undergo the requisite global and local regulatory evaluations and approvals to support their efficacy and effectiveness.
Kenyans online took on the CS for what they termed as a shallow argument.
Although the clip was taken out of context according to Kagwe, he defended his stand saying that Kenya will remain cautious.
Actual data from the clinical trials is yet to be known. Pfizer and BioNTech say they will have enough safety data by the third week of November to take their vaccine to regulators.
“This clip has been taken out of context as it was specifically directed at reports of Pfizer developing a vaccine that is reported to be 95% effective; this response is driven by the reaction of top medics and if well guided, perhaps we all should share in it. It is my assertion that in the absence of certainty — and in response to the doubts that have been publicly cast by global experts — we will not commit the Kenyan taxpayers’ money to pre-order vaccine candidate which is yet to undergo the requisite global and local regulatory evaluations and approvals to support their efficacy and effectiveness” said Kagwe.
He added “We should instead wait for globally and scientifically approved and acceptable vaccines. We are on the side of caution. As it was specifically directed at reports of Pfizer developing a vaccine that is reported to be 95% effective; this response is driven by the reaction of top medics and if well guided, perhaps we all should share in it”
This is what the Caroline Anyango, a Kisumu resident wants the President to clarify during his address.
“We are excited about the vaccine and issues of safety are arising. Who is telling the truth? The president should give guidance” she said.
Kagwe says the health ministry is engaging and monitoring the latest developments with a view of protecting Kenyan lives and availing the safest options at the soonest appropriate time.
“As a Ministry, we are cognizant of the fact that there are several vaccine candidates already at the advanced clinical trial Stage 3…..Even as we do this, we are making logistical preparations to handle the vaccines and their special storage characteristics including temperatures as low as -70 degrees Celsius in readiness for when such a vaccine becomes available” he adds.
Kenya is already running clinical trials spearheaded by KEMRI.