Over one million COVID-19 vaccine doses arrive in Nairobi, via COVAX facility

02 Mar 2021

1.02 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Nairobi. The vaccines were transported by UNICEF as part of the COVAX facility, which aims to provide equitable access to vaccines for all countries around the world. The vaccines arrived on Qatar Airways flight QR1341, which was met at the airport by senior Kenya Government officials led by Cabinet Secretary for Health Hon Mutahi Kagwe, UNICEF Representative to Kenya Maniza Zaman and World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative to Kenya Dr Rudi Eggers.

“This is a historic day for Kenya, marking an important milestone in our fight against COVID-19,” Cabinet Secretary for Health Hon Mutahi Kagwe said. “This has been made possible by the leadership of His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta and the hard work of the Ministry of Health. I would like to thank UNICEF, WHO and GAVI for their support in procuring and transporting these life-saving vaccines and the Kenyan people for their cooperation over the past 11.5 months.”

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has developed a deployment plan for the vaccines, with healthcare workers and other essential workers including security personnel, being offered the vaccine first. Vaccines will be moved from the central vaccine store to nine regional vaccine stores, from where the counties will collect and distribute the vaccines to local hospitals at the county and sub-county level. The first vaccination sites will be one nominated vaccinating health facility per county, the national referral hospitals and select private health facilities.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which was manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and made available to the COVAX facility thanks to an advance purchase agreement between Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and SII, were procured and transported by UNICEF's Supply Division in Copenhagen. The first consignment of 1.02 million doses is part of an initial allocation to Kenya of 3.56 million doses. In addition, UNICEF is providing 1,025,000 syringes and 10,250 safety boxes to Kenya, via a global stockpile funded and supported by Gavi. However, Kenya already has enough in-country stocks of syringes and safety boxes for the first phase of vaccinations.

“With the arrival of these vaccines, UNICEF and partners are honouring the promise of the COVAX facility to ensure people from less wealthy countries are not left behind in the global rollout of life-saving vaccines,” UNICEF Representative to Kenya Maniza Zaman said. “UNICEF is proud to be part of a partnership supporting the Government of Kenya in this vital work. I would also like to thank the countries that have donated to COVAX. Each step on this journey brings us further along the path to recovery for the millions of Kenyan children and families affected by COVID-19.”

UNICEF, WHO and partners are also supporting the Government’s communication campaign to raise awareness of the vaccination campaign while increasing trust in the COVID-19 vaccine. Support is being provided to counter myths and misconceptions about COVID vaccines and to encourage people to get the vaccine as it becomes available to them.

“The World Health Organisation is honoured to be part of this unprecedented global vaccination campaign – the largest such response in human history,” WHO Representative to Kenya Dr Rudi Eggers said. “In the coming weeks, frontline health workers in Kenya will start to receive the vaccines, protecting them as they treat the victims of COVID, and provide essential health services. I can assure health workers and the Kenyan public that these vaccines are safe and effective. With this vaccination, we will get much closer to end this pandemic. However, while these vaccines are being rolled out, please let us continue the public health measures in place, such as the masks, the social distancing and avoiding congested gatherings and settings.”

Over the past several months, COVAX partners have been supporting governments around the world, in preparation for moments like this one in Kenya. This includes assisting with the development of national vaccination plans, support for cold chain infrastructure, as well as stockpiling of half a billion syringes and safety boxes for their disposal, masks, gloves and other equipment to ensure that there is enough equipment for health workers to start vaccinating priority groups as soon as possible.

“We know that this pandemic will not end in one country until it has ended in all countries,” said Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director for Country Programmes at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “The first arrivals of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Kenya represents the start of equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. These first doses are for the vaccination of frontline health workers which are critical to the COVID-19 response and the maintenance of all health services."

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others. COVAX is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

COVAX has built a diverse portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations and is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX Facility participants supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC.