Kenya’s journey towards manufacturing of human vaccines in Kenya will soon be realized after the Government established a company named the Kenya Biovax Institute Ltd, the Acting Director General, Ministry of Health Dr. Patrick Amoth disclosed yesterday (1st November, 2021) when he officially opened the first Stakeholders workshop on Local Vaccine Production in Kenya at KEMRI Headquarters, Nairobi.
The Acting DG further disclosed that the Cabinet Secretary Health Hon (Sen) Mutahi Kagwe has already appointed a National Multi-Agency Committee of Human Vaccine Production led by Dr. Daniel Mbinda who is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors KEMRI with an objective of looking into a possibility of establishing a local capacity to manufacture human vaccines in Kenya for the region. The team has already identified the site for the construction of the production facility in Embakasi, Nairobi and the facility assembly process has already started.
The stakeholders meeting was attended by key officials from both KEMRI and Ministry of Health led by Chairman, National Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccines Deployment at the Ministry of Health, the Chairman of KEMRI Board of Directors, Dr. Daniel Mbinda, Acting Director-General, KEMRI, Prof Sam Kariuki, the Chair, National Multi-Agency COHVP, Dr. Jane Wachira among other dignitaries
Currently, Kenya imports 70 per cent of her pharmaceutical requirements, including vaccines and other biological products. In his opening speech, reiterated the Chairmanship of Dr. Daniel Mbinda, who is also the board Chair for KEMRI, said as a committee they have already presented to the Cabinet Secretary Health, Hon. Mutahi Kagwe the concept notes and budget line as well as approved the legal framework to govern the human vaccine production under, Kenya Biovax Institute Ltd. DG congratulated the team for their commendable speed and expediency in delivering on your mandate as a committee.
Dr. Amoth said that the Government of Kenya recognizes that vaccination is one of the most successful cost-effective interventions in disease control and the country has established a solid system to ensure that her citizens are protected against vaccines preventable diseases, including COVID-19. He said because of this reason, the government established this multi-agency/multi-sectorial committee, the Committee of Human Vaccine Production with the mandate; to assess and advise on the feasibility of human vaccine manufacturing in Kenya, develop a concept note with cost estimates and oversee the implementation and commissioning of a human vaccine manufacturing facility in the country.
The project is to be implemented in three phases:
Accordingly, Phase I of the project will entail the establishment of a Fill and Finish facility for the COVID-19 vaccine. This will involve procurement of bulk vaccines from identified manufacturers, packaging in vials and storage ready for distribution. After the establishment of this capacity, Kenya Biovax will proceed to manufacture other primary vaccines by Fill and Finish.
Phase II entails the establishment of the capacity to produce bulk products including antigens and adjuvants locally within 2 to 5 years.
Phase III will involve the establishment of vaccine Research and Development (R & D) capacity to produce globally competitive vaccines. In addition, it is important to note that all three phases shall run concurrently. Acting Director-General KEMRI, Prof. Kariuki noted that the project is an immense call for the country to exploit available resources in the best way possible to actualize the local production of human vaccines and other biological products.
The Ministry has engaged substantially with Vaccine manufacturers, founders of SA Jansen Institute (Aspen) as well as with the government of South Africa and they have expressed interest in working with the team to realize this dream.
Dr. Amoth however emphasized on the urge to operate with a very futuristic approach and see expansion possibilities to ensure that the projects are completed on time. ‘As a committee entrusted with this huge responsibility, we must learn to work comprehensively with institutions collaborating and building on existing synergies. And I am more persuaded that this committee is equal to this task and therefore, will definitely deliver on their national mandate.’ Dr. Amoth Said.
The vaccine development will also follow-up with major vaccine manufacturers for partnership on technology transfer and supply of bulk Vaccines.
The Kenya Medical Supplies Authority is also working on enhancing its cold chain capacity to allow for storage of vaccines at temperatures of up to -80 degrees at its new go downs in Embakasi that are near completion.
Dr. Akwale said ‘The current constraints in COVID-19 vaccine supply and the scheduled graduation of Kenya from COVAX supported supply of vaccines by 2027, calls for the country to take steps towards the manufacturing of its own vaccines. Local vaccine production will support National and regional economic growth, National security, public healthcare programmes and enhance the capacity to control future epidemics.’