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Kenya’s main vaccine donor GAVI extends support to 2029

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Kenya BioVax Institute CEO Dr Michael Lusiola (left), World Bank Vice President for Human Development Mamta Murthi (centre) and State Department for Medical Services PS Harry Mutai when they toured Kenya BioVax Institute in Embakasi, Nairobi on February 7, 2024. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

The Global Alliance of Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) has extended its support to Kenya by two years to 2029, helping avert a looming crisis in primary healthcare.

Health PS Harry Kimutai disclosed GAVI’s extension on Wednesday, a move aimed at ensuring that the country, through the Kenya BioVax Institute, can start formulating vaccines locally.

GAVI, the main donor of vaccines and immunisation funds in Kenya, had earlier said it would end its support in 2027, triggering fears of a crisis in the annual roll-out of the primary healthcare programme, given GAVI and UNICEF provide at least Sh32 billion for the initiative every year.

Kenya BioVax Institute is in the advanced stages of setting up a facility at Embakasi in Nairobi that will be used to formulate vaccines for use across the country.

Read: Kenyans to wait longer for locally-made jabs

The agency has an ambitious target of releasing the first batch of locally packaged vaccines by 2029.

The production will be through filling, packaging, and populating of imported vaccines to meet Kenya’s demand.

“We requested GAVI for an extension to allow us to build our capacity for local packaging. They agreed and gave us a two-year extension to 2029,” Health PS Henry Kimutai told the Business Daily on Wednesday.

GAVI’s support, which started in 2015, has been critical in helping Kenya reduce deaths that are preventable via immunisation.

The diseases include polio, and measles, which can cause brain swelling, and mumps that result in deafness among children.

Kenya spends an estimated Sh36 billion annually on primary immunisation with the Exchequer providing Sh4 billion.

The paltry Exchequer allocations have been attributed to a thinning fiscal space as the country grapples with fast-maturing loans and the need to free up funds for development projects.

Kenya’s vaccine demand is estimated at between 16 million to 25 million every year for essential vaccines, according to the Kenya BioVax Institute.

The demand for vaccines is projected to grow every year with a growing population.

Health experts had last year warned of a crisis unless the government struck a deal with other partners to replace GAVI and provide billions of shillings needed annually to fund primary immunisation.

Health Non-Governmental Organisations Network (HENNET) had last year warned that Kenya risks plunging into a crisis should GAVI exit in 2027.

The health lobby said that Kenya was dragging her feet in moving to plug the gap anticipated from GAVI’s exit.

Read: Vaccine fighting six diseases cleared for developing nations

Kenya BioVax Institute which was formed in 2020 in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic is partnering with leading agencies such as the Biofarma of Indonesia, Serum Institute of India, and SK BioScience of South Korea, to build its capacity.

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