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Kenya to get World Bank’s Sh130 billion for vaccines factory

Thursday May 16, 2024

Health Cabinet Susan Nakhumicha and PS of medical services Harry Kimtai during the launch of the Health emergency preparedness response and resilience programme for Eastern and Southern Africa on May 15, 2024 in Nairobi Image: KEITH MUSEKE

World Bank will support Kenya’s plan to start making human vaccines through a $1 billion (about Sh130 billion) investment that will support emergency projects in eight African countries.

Kenya is already putting up infrastructure at its Biovax Institute factory in Nairobi’s Industrial Area.

Medical Services Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai said the country plans to produce the first vaccine by 2027.

“We will start with what we call ‘fill and finish’, which refers to packaging pre-manufactured vaccines,”  he told journalists at the launch of the Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience Programme for East and Southern Africa.

The initiative, which is funded by the World Bank Group will run over seven years. It seeks to strengthen health emergency preparedness, response and resilience in the target countries.

The first phase of the programme will target Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sao Tome and Principe. Subsequently, Phase 2 will encompass Malawi, Rwanda, and Zambia.

“We are glad that part of the emergency strengthening will be to support local vaccine manufacturing so that we don’t see the kind of shortage we saw during Covid-19,” Kimtai said.

World Bank Country director Keith Hansen noted recent events such as Covid-19 and flooding have shown many countries are least prepared for emergencies.

“There’s a lot of work to be done to prevent future catastrophes. Health emergencies also include health impact of climate change influenced disasters such as floodings,” he said.

The bank has seen strong demand for participation in the programme and will include more countries in coming weeks.

Biovax CEO Michael Lusiola said they will start with childhood vaccines widely used in Kenya.

Health CS Susan Nakhumicha who launched the programme in Nairobi, said infectious diseases remain a health challenge across Africa.

The CS said the funding will also help enhance public health surveillance, pharmaceutical manufacturing, risk communication and community engagement, reduction of gender inequalities and building of resilience to climate-related risks.

“Frequent outbreak of infectious diseases such as Ebola, Marburg, Yellow Fever, and Chikungunya in recent years have continued to exert pressure on our healthcare systems, compromising normal service delivery and exerting a huge impact on our economies,” she said.

The funding Kenya will receive will strengthen health systems so that health services are not disrupted in case of calamities.

“Covid-19 may not be the last such pandemic. It is imperative that as a region, we strategically work together to enhance our health system preparedness,” she said.

Nakumicha the recent floods not only destroyed critical health facilities and infrastructure, but also cut off millions of people from accessing health services.

The East, Central, and Southern Africa Health Community, in partnership with Igad are the regional coordinating organisations supporting the implementation of the programme.

Prof Yoswa Dambisya, the director general of ECSA-HC, said the programme will help participating countries strengthen their health systems to absorb shocks.

“The World Bank has indicated there would be support for local manufacturing within the framework of this support. We are determined to ensure we deliver and change the narrative within the region,” he said.

Workneh Gebeyehu, the Igad executive secretary, also noted the programme would help build resilience against pandemics and other emergencies such as cholera.

“The programme is answer to the political declaration at the UN General Assembly in September 2023 committing members to international cooperation and collaboration in emergency response,” he said.


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