Two Kenyan health ministry agencies denied authorizing the use of the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine candidate Sputnik V in Kenya this week despite reports that some Kenyan hospitals are already charging citizens to register for the shot.
Collins Tabu, the head of immunization at Kenya’s health ministry, said on March 24 he was “not aware of the Sputnik V vaccine’s existence in the country, even as the [Kenyan] Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) said it had only approved its importation but not distribution,” Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reported on March 25.
“Private health facilities such as the Nanyuki Cottage Hospital had by on Wednesday [March 24] already started registering Kenyans for uptake of the jab at a reported cost of Sh8,000 [$73],” according to the newspaper.
Kenya’s Senate Health Committee also denied knowledge of Sputnik V’s authorization for use in the country on Wednesday.
“While inspecting the National Vaccine Depot in Kitengela yesterday, Committee chairperson Sabina Chege, said parliament is only aware of the [approval of the] AstraZeneca vaccine,” the Daily Nation reported, referring to the Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by the German-Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra-Zeneca.
An official for Kenya’s PPB who asked not to be named told the Daily Nation on Thursday that the health agency had “authorized the importation of Sputnik V, but claimed the board was not aware of its distribution across the country.”
Nishant Mishra, a senior official at Sputnik V’s Kenyan distributor, Dinlas Pharmaceuticals, told the newspaper that the vaccine candidate “has been imported with the full knowledge and clearance of the PPB.”
Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute developed Sputnik V last year. It was registered by Russian health officials in August 2020 as the first vaccine candidate to be approved for use against the Chinese coronavirus anywhere in the world. The Russian Ministry of Health allegedly broke its own protocol to rush Sputnik V through approvals so that it could be used for emergency use in the country. The ministry registered the vaccine candidate before it had cleared Phase III clinical trials and without releasing clinical data on its safety or efficacy rate. The Lancet medical journal published late-stage clinical data for Sputnik V in February showing the shot allegedly had an efficacy rate of 92 percent against the Chinese coronavirus.
Russia has offered Sputnik V to dozens of countries, including Kenya, for use in their domestic coronavirus vaccination drives. At least 49 countries have approved the shot for emergency use so far. Hungary became the first European Union (E.U.) country to grant Sputnik V initial use approval on January 22 despite continued resistance by the European Medicines Agency, the E.U.’s health authority, to approve the vaccine candidate for emergency use bloc-wide.