Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala has welcomed the United States’ position on temporarily waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents.
CS Balala said the international community should now lobby the multinational pharmaceuticals to accept and support this move to ramp up the production and distribution of jabs, particularly in Africa.
“The production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines in as many countries as possible is vital to keep everyone safe in this interconnected global village. No one is safe until everyone is vaccinated and a waiver of patents on Covid-19 vaccines will make the supply chain more efficient. I am glad US President Joe Biden’s administration understands and supports this position,” Balala said.
The CS said the Tourism, Travel ,and Hospitality industries, which have suffered most from the pandemic, desperately require majority of the world population to be vaccinated for them to re-open their businesses with the confidence that visitors will be safe.
Reopening Kenya’s hospitality industry
On April 21, the Ministry of Tourism launched a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive for frontline personnel in the Tourism and Hospitality sector. The programme, which is in phases, targets 50,000 industry personnel.
While launching the programme, CS Balala said that the exercise was a major step towards the resumption of activities in the tourism sector, which had been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 1, 2021 while easing cessation of movement into and out of Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Nakuru Counties, President Uhuru Kenyatta also announced the reopening of bars, hotels and restaurants whose closing time was set at 7 pm.
“That the operations of restaurants and eateries in the Zoned Area shall resume in accordance with the guidelines issued jointly by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife. Restaurants are encouraged to utilize outdoor spaces to maximize on physical and social distancing,” read part of President Kenyatta’s speech.
Africa lagging behind
The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously expressed concern that many African countries are running out of COVID-19 jabs, with complex global delivery challenges.
Some countries have also been unable to administer the vaccines because of lack of a strategy and capacity. For instance, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is returning 1.3 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 doses to the COVAX Facility and UNICEF after determining it cannot administer them before the June expiry date.
According to the WHO, the COVAX initiative has so far delivered 18 million vaccine doses to 41 African countries.
Countries including Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana, Togo, Tunisia, eSwatini, and Botswana have already depleted their first batch of doses, with WHO saying they will need to wait until early mid-June for more.
Data from Africa CDC shows that many African countries are lagging behind with South Africa having inoculated just 0.5 percent of its population, Nigeria at 0.57 percent, Kenya at 1.53 percent, Senegal at 2.39 percent , and Ghana at 2.71 percent.