Economy

Sh4.5bn missing in budget for buying Covid-19 vaccines

UkurYatani1002ca

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani. FILE PHOTO | NMG

alushula

Summary

  • The Parliamentary Budget and Appropriation committee yesterday disclosed that the allocation was not included in the spending plan starting July, when the second phase of the inoculation is expected to kick off.
  • The budget hitch could derail Kenya’s target to ship in 36 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines by June next year when it expects to have 16 million people inoculated.
  • Kenya this week received 1.02 million doses of the vaccines enough for slightly over 500,000 people requiring two doses eight to 12 weeks apart.

The Treasury has failed to allocate Sh4.5 billion needed for the next phase of Covid-19 vaccination, raising the risk that targeted Kenyans could miss out on the jabs against the infectious virus.

The Parliamentary Budget and Appropriation committee yesterday disclosed that the allocation was not included in the spending plan starting July, when the second phase of the inoculation is expected to kick off.

The budget hitch could derail Kenya’s target to ship in 36 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines by June next year when it expects to have 16 million people inoculated.

Kenya this week received 1.02 million doses of the vaccines enough for slightly over 500,000 people requiring two doses eight to 12 weeks apart.

This would cover health and care-home workers, with the other top priority being teachers and security and immigration personnel.

The second phase of vaccination would involve 9.7 million people, comprising all those above 50 years old and those above 18 years old with underlying medical conditions, running between July this year and June next year.

The third phase, to unfold concurrently with the second, will be aimed at 4.9 million people, including those living in congested areas and seen as particularly vulnerable.

The parliamentary Health committee has raised the alarm that the Treasury had failed to allocate money for the vaccines in the 2021 Budget Policy Statement—a policy document that indicates priorities to guide the national government and counties when preparing budgets for the new year starting July.

“That there is no mention in the BPS 2021 regarding the acquisition and availability of vaccines for Covid-19 and whether it is one of the government priorities in the 2021/22 and over the medium term as part of Covid-19 interventions. Further, no resources have been provided for the acquisition of vaccines,” said the health committee

Similar comments were made by the budget committee.

“Sh4.5 billion for acquisition of Covid-19 vaccines and Sh4 billion for procurement of HIV drugs…” said the committee in reference to the unfunded items in Ministry of Health budget for the New Year.

Kenya’s first batch of vaccines, which arrived on a Qatar Airways passenger flight on Tuesday, is the first of an initial allocation of 3.56 million doses by the global COVAX facility.

“We have received ... machine guns, bazookas, and tanks to fight this war against COVID-19,” Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe remarked as the doses arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

COVAX, which is led by the GAVI vaccines alliance along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, aims to deliver over 1.3 billion doses to 92 lower- and middle-income countries, covering up to 20 percent of their populations.

Backers of the initiative hope to level a playing field that has seen wealthier nations quickly vaccinate millions, ahead of poorer regions.

Only a few African nations have started inoculating citizens with vaccines acquired outside of COVAX. Kenya will share the cost of importing the vaccines with GAVI, underlining the need for the Treasury allocation for the doses.

Kenya plans to offer the Covid-19 vaccine shots free of charge to its citizens, but will pay $7.70 (Sh845.50) per shot of the vaccines as negotiated under the COVAX facility.

Other crucial programmes that the Ministry of Health had requested for funding but failed to receive an allocation include Sh4 billion for procurement of HIV drugs, Sh9.1 billion to pay staff in referral hospitals such as Kenyatta National Hospital and Sh1 billion to pay for court cases awarded against it.

“Having considered the unfunded requests from the departmental committees amounting to Sh240 billon, the committee has identified critical expenditure needs that require funding amounting to Sh45.5 billion,” said the committee.

Kenya has reported 107,329 cases of Covid-19 and 1,870 deaths, with the economy continuing to reel from pandemic-related disruptions such as fall in government’s finances, reduced activities on the factory floor and job cuts.