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As questions mount over vaccinations, Kenyatta battens down the hatches again

The third wave of the pandemic has hit the country with reports of a mounting death toll and desperate shortages of intensive care beds

On Friday (26 March), President Uhuru Kenyatta announced tighter restrictions on Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru counties, as disease-infested areas following a surge in Covid-19 infections. An estimated 70% of cases are in these five counties.

Curfews have been tightened and all travel into and out of the five counties banned from midnight Friday. Meanwhile, restaurants and bars will be required to offer takeaway services and places of worship will be closed.

That will hurt businesses already crippled by the pandemic, though the measures also point to the government's unwillingness and inability to close the informal sectors of the economy (AC Vol 61 No 7, Locking down politics).

In the meantime, there has been confusion about the status of the Russian Sputnik vaccine, which is already being distributed at private hospitals at a cost of 8,000 shillings ($80) per jab. Ministry of Health officials denied authorising the drug and claimed to be unaware that Sputnik was in Kenya.

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board says that it has approved importation but not distribution of the vaccine. The distributor, meanwhile, Dinlas Pharmaceuticals, has said that it had been imported for distribution with the full knowledge of government officials.

The confusion points to a chaotic vaccination rollout. Some 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab delivered under the Covax initiative are being slowly distributed with the government planning to offer jabs to adults over 58 in its first phase of vaccination (AC Vol 62 No 5, Despite denials, vaccine nationalism is rampant). However, there have been multiple reports of expatriates of all ages being at the front of queues for the vaccine at overcrowded clinics in Nairobi.

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