Barely a day after the 1.02 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Kenyans have put the prices of these jabs under the microscope.
It all started when Health CS Mutahi Kagwe exuded confidence in the fight against COVID-19, with the arrival of the vaccines.
“… I know the times have been challenging for everyone but by God’s grace I hope you’re all holding up. I believe in this year and His mercy. And having received the our first batch of the COVID-19 (COVAX) vaccine last night, I thought I’d post today to reassure each of you that there is hope around the corner and that we shall be able to put this menace behind us sooner rather than later,” posted CS Kagwe.
One Kenyan was, however not having either of this. Koech Kipkorir expressed his concerns on the price per dose Kenya had parted with to secure the vaccines.
According to Kipkorir, Kenya had secured the vaccine at double the price other countries were paying.
“Kenya is buying a dose of #COVID19Vaccine at US$ 7 per dose, Brazil is buying at $3.16, US and Bangladesh at $4, South Africa $5.25, almost all European countries are buying at $3.50 WHY IS KENYA PAYING DOUBLE THE WORLD?@MOH_Kenya.. Explain,” posed Koech Kipkorir.
In his response, CS Kagwe tried to explain how the prices vary from one region to another, and how factors like population of a country affects the price.
“Koech Kipkorir before automatically jumping in criticism, may I suggest that as a simple start, you compare the populations of the said countries against ours? I urge that you sometimes believe in the country you belong to,” answered CS Kagwe.
CS Kagwe’s response did not convince Kenyans who could not fathom how population of a country affects the price of the much-needed COVID-19 jab.
John Njoroge wondered: “Mutahi Kagwe so they are buying at wholesale price and ours is in retail price???? Pthoooooo.”
Ciku Gatiba Lyne tried to explain CS Kagwe’s explanation, only she was using a more local example: “Mutahi Kagwe so.. In other words, what you AR trying to tell us is that whenever you go to buy mandazi, the seller asks you how many members are there in your family so he can determine at what price to sell you mandazi? Ooh i Gerrit, aren’t you the same man who told us you ate 4M mandazi? Hizi mnakula mtaja tapika mchana hadharani. Meanwhile…. Migumo trees are falling apart chain chain!”
Since all the countries Kipkorir gave as examples are more populous than Kenya, Job Nyawira had a ‘perfect’ plan for Kenya to secure the jabs at a lower price.
“Si mngeshika[na] na tz [Tanzania] na ug [Uganda] mnunue na wholesale.”
So what is the price of the AstraZeneca vaccines?
The debate about the prices of COVID-19 vaccines is not in Kenya only.
In February 3, 2021, the Ugandan government came under sharp criticism for “paying unreasonably higher prices” for its AstraZeneca vaccines, in comparison to other African countries.
Just like Kenya, Uganda will be paying US$7 per dose for its 18 million dose order of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine. Medicines access advocates say that this price is 20% more than South Africa and roughly triple that being paid by the European Union.
South African government, in late January, 2021, found itslef on the defensive regarding vaccine prices too.
African continent’s worst virus-hit country bought 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be used among health workers at US$5.25 per dose. It turns out that the European Union is paying the same vaccine at US$2.15 per dose, according to information leaked by a Belgian minister on Twitter.
In its explanation, South African government health official said that the US$5.25 was the set price for “a country classified by the World Bank as upper-middle income.”
“The explanation we were given for why other high-income countries have a lower price is that they have invested in the [research and development], hence the discount,” South Africa’s deputy director general of health, Anban Pillay said.
Some of the factors that affect the price of these vaccines include; overhead costs, the timing of orders, transport costs, the amounts of cash down payments or deposits, as well as economies of scale.
Back to Kenya, Dr. Willis Akhwale, Chair of the National COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment and Vaccination Taskforce explains why Kenya secured the vaccine at US$ 7 per dose, approximately KSh700.
In an interview with Citizen TV, Akhwale says that the factory prices and transportation cost were factored in.
“This procurement was done by UNICEF on behalf of GAVI through the Covax facility. In January, the cost estimates were between 6 and 8 dollars. We used an average of 7 dollars. The 7 dollars is a planning cost of procurement and transportation and delivery up to the airport. 7 is a planning cost and cost savings have been made,” Akhwale said.
Kenya’s vaccines were purchased from the Serum Institute of India.