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COVID-19 vaccines are essential in the global strategy to end the pandemic and are only effective if distributed equitably among countries. The United Nations’ Global Goal 3 calls for good health and well-being and this cannot be achieved if richer countries continue to hoard vaccines and contribute to vaccine nationalism. Join the movement and take action on this issue here

Kenya has joined South Africa in accusing rich countries of perpetrating a “vaccine apartheid” and leaving low- and middle-income countries short of vaccines to combat COVID-19.

In a statement released by the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in reponse to the country being added to the UK's banned travel list on April 3, they said: “Kenya continues to see, with deep regret, that vaccine producing countries around the world have begun practicing a form of vaccine nationalism, possessiveness, and discrimination, coupled with a vaccine hoarding attitude that can only be described as a form of 'vaccine apartheid.'"

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa made a similar accusation when he used his visit to a local vaccine manufacturing site on March 30 to speak out against rich countries buying more than enough vaccines for their populations while poorer countries struggle to acquire them.

The UK added Kenya to its coronavirus travel “red list”, banning travel between the two countries on April 2. Just a day later Kenya’s Foreign Ministry hit back saying that the move will have “far-reaching consequences” on several sectors in both countries. 

Kenya also announced its own restrictions on travelers from the UK; restrictions on both parts came into effect on April 9. The statement went on to explain that Kenya had expected to “build back better” from the crisis with support from the UK and instead has been met with “punitive measures that are discriminatory, divisive, and exclusive.”

“Kenya remains of the opinion that in solidarity and in seeking to build back better from this pandemic, the government of the United Kingdom would have offered support to Kenya through the provision of vaccines,” it said. “This is further to Kenya’s request that the United Kingdom shares vaccines which Kenya is aware that the United Kingdom has bigger quantities than it currently has use for.”

While the UK has committed to donating its surplus vaccines to low-income countries, joining Canada, Norway, France, and the European Union in this commitment, there is no word from the country as to when this is expected to happen. 

Kenya, a Commonwealth country with a population of 50 million people, received just over 1 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through the global World Health Organisation-led COVAX Facility at the beginning of March. The UK on the other hand has ordered over 400 million vaccines for its population of 66 million people. 

Speaking to CNN, Kenya's Principal Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Macharia Kamau, said that while he welcomed the vaccine already received, more support is needed for the country to be able to vaccinate its people. 

"We are a country of 50 million people and it's imperative we vaccinate at least a third of the population... we actually need tens of millions of doses of vaccine, not millions, and we need them rather urgently if we are to be effective in stemming this pandemic," Kamau urged.

The east African nation joins South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa in calling out a "vaccine apartheid". Ramaphosa has been consistently vocal in his warnings.

"Vaccine apartheid must come to an end,” said Ramaphosa on March 30. “Because in the end, in the whole world, no one is safe until everyone is safe, so all of us must be treated equally across the world and vaccines must be treated as a public good, available at affordable prices right across the board."


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Kenya Joins South Africa’s Ramaphosa in Calling Out ‘Vaccine Apartheid’

Par Khanyi Mlaba