Kenya’s Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to wait longer after EMA delays approval

The European Union (EU) has dashed hopes for Kenya to obtain UK’s Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine soonest.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) in a statement on Wednesday in Brussels said that it will hold back on approvals for Africa in the usage of the vaccine.

EMA stated that AstraZeneca is yet to provide complete data to get its approval despite the same vaccine being given a green light to be administered in the UK starting Monday January 4.

“At the moment, AstraZeneca has only provided data on their clinical trials to the European Medicines Agency,” EMA Deputy Executive Director Noel Wathion stated according to the Standard.

This is a major contradiction given that Kenya had announced that the vaccine would be in the country in the first quarter of 2021.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe a few weeks ago said that a shipment of 24 million doses had been shipped en route to Kenya.

Kenya is in Phase II trial of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine which is being led by Kemri-Wellcome Trust in partnership with Oxford University.

There are at least 400 participants for the trial which kicked off in October and is expected to end after 24 months.

Kagwe insisted that only 20 percent of Kenya’s total population would be given priority. Of this percentage will be police officers, teachers and persons aged 50 and above as well as those with underlying medical conditions.

“No vaccine will be sold to the 49 millions Kenyans. I urge you not to ignore safety protocols because the vaccine will be given in phases,” said Kagwe at Kenol market during the official opening of Santa More Specialised Surgical Hospital according to the Standard.

Health workers in the public and private sectors will also be among the first beneficiaries to get the vaccine.

Kenya has settled for Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for a number of reasons among them, the fact that it is cheap and can be stored under normal refrigeration conditions unlike other vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna.

Its ease of storage makes it easy to distribute. Kenya booked the 24 million doses through World Health Organization (WHO) Covax facility.

However, with EMA’s pronouncement, the approval for use of AstraZeneca vaccine in Africa, Kenya included hangs in the balance.

After the UK approved its use, AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said that the vaccine is effective against the new coronavirus strain in the UK and lately reported in the US.

The delayed approval by EMU for the use of the vaccine in Kenya starting January means that Kenyans could get the vaccine beyond the first quarter of the year.