What COVID-19 tells us about the current biomedical innovation and manufacturing capacity in Kenya

COVID19  was a good demonstration of why the work we are doing is important. For Kenya like most of Africa we typically inject over 90% of all the medical devices that we use are diagnostics, this puts us at a major risk. 

When we realised this was a global challenge, our normal suppliers whether for PPE’s or diagnostics tests and in this case the vaccines, majorly produced for their own population first, what has been known as vaccine nationalism. In a situation like this with no capacity, you are at the mercy of those who have the ability to produce. 

Being able to build capacity for Africa so that Africa is not always behind is important. The last global pandemic we had was HIV, it took us 10 years from when the ARVs had been launched for ARVs to be readily available in africa. Fortunately we now have COVAX which is trying to address that. 

The best thing we can do now is what South Africa is doing so that companies can licence countries with capacity to manufacture vaccines so that they can start producing for populations within the region. Kenya currently does not have that capacity. We can only receive 1M one of the reasons we are not doing sufficient testing and contact tracing is because of the limited capacity.

COVID has been a good eye-opener to the fact that local manufacturing and innovation is important and we need to continue building on that capacity so that the lessons from hiv and the innovation gap can be addressed.