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Kenya has become the first messenger RNA (mRNA) hub in Africa after agreeing to host biotechnology company Moderna.

Moderna Monday announced that, with the help of the United States government, it will invest $500 million which is expected to cater for the production of about 500 million vaccine doses for the African continent.

The manufacturing company will start by producing drug substances that will be used in the manufacture of different vaccine types such as those for HIV, cancer and even Covid-19.

Later, the company will broaden its scope to a fill and finish design as well as the packaging of the vaccines, Moderna said in a statement.

"This partnership is a testament to the capabilities of our community and our commitment to technological innovation. Moderna's investment in Kenya will help advance equitable global vaccine access and is emblematic of the structural developments that will enable Africa to become an engine of sustainable global growth," said President Uhuru Kenyatta in a statement.

He said that it is “great news” to the country since Moderna is a pioneer company in mRNA technology that will provide an opportunity for the country to be a “centre of excellence”.

“mRNA is the latest technology that is not only used in the making of Covid-19 vaccines but also other vaccines for other diseases. We are looking forward to having the facility in the country as it will enable technology transfer not only for Kenya but also the African continent,” he said.

“This will also be an opportunity for Kenyans to get more jobs and investments since the company is in the private sector,” he added.

Moderna’s chief executive Stéphane Bancel said in a statement that the partnership with Kenya is a solution to the inequity witnessed in terms of Covid-19 vaccines distribution globally.

"Battling the Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years has provided a reminder of the work that must be done to ensure global health equity. With our mRNA global public health vaccine programme including our vaccine programmes against HIV and Nipah virus, and with this partnership with the Republic of Kenya, the African Union and the US government, we believe that this step will become one of many on a journey to ensure sustainable access to transformative mRNA innovation on the African continent and positively impact public health,” he said.

Open to partnerships

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said that the country is open to such partnerships and appreciates Moderna in building local manufacturing capacity.

“This will ensure as a country and region we can quickly respond to health demands requiring vaccine commodities," he said.

This also follows an announcement by the World Health Organisation on February 18 that six African countries, Kenya included, were to receive technologies that will help in producing mRNA vaccines such as Moderna and Pfizer.

The country also had plans to come up with a local vaccines manufacturing company called the Kenya Biovax Limited, which will be located in Embakasi, Nairobi.

In December last year, Mr Kagwe announced board members of the Kenya Biovax Limited.

The national Covid-19 vaccines task force chairman Willis Akhwale told the Nation that the Moderna company will complement the Kenya Biovax Institute.

“We must look at Biovax as a broader aspect and it will cater for health products and technologies. Either way, for Biovax to run, it will need an active pharmaceutical ingredient that the country was to import. Moderna having a facility here may support it in acquiring that,” he said. - HELLEN SHIKANDA, The EastAfrican

 

Health services in Nairobi are likely to be disrupted starting Tuesday should health workers make good their threat to down their tools.

They include nurses, clinical officers, laboratory officers, public health officers and pharmaceutical technologists.

This is after the 14-day strike notice issued by the unions on February 15 expired on Monday.

The leaders say despite the notice, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services has failed to reach out and offer an amicable solution.

The unions have accused NMS of failing to promote their members to their rightful job groups, with some having served in the same group for close to 10 years.

The also lamented that members on probation and contractual terms are yet to be confirmed as permanent and pensionable.

“We cannot continue suffering at the expense of cat and mouse games. We have no problem with construction of hospitals," Kenya Health Professionals Society Secretary general Brown Ashira said.

"[But] you can’t built hospitals and fail to motivate an employee who is working there.”

Kenya National Union of Nurses Nairobi secretary general Boaz Onchari said last year, Nairobi county re-designated and sorted issues of stagnation.

However, employees who were not seconded to NMS and those seconded are yet to benefit.

“While we could wish to ensure uninterrupted service delivery to the people, we have been taken for granted for too long,” Onchari said.

“We have given NMS ample time to settle our grievances. which ranged from promotions, re-designations, confirmations, stagnations, delayed payment of salaries and the issues of secondment," he said.

"We have tried to engage in good faith but NMS have shown us that our issues matter less."

The NMS director for Health could not be reached for comment on the matter.

However, the unions say despite their outcry to have their issues addressed, in the last financial year, NMS returned Sh538 million meant for promotions of health workers to the national treasury.

In September last year, NMS Health Services director Dr Ouma Oluga said they spent Sh600 million on promotions, Sh700 million on health cover and Sh1.7 billion on new staff in a bid to curb rampant strikes.

In an interview with the Star, Oluga explained that for the county to have a proper functioning healthcare system, issues affecting health workers needed to be addressed first.

“If you look back, hesitancy to promote health workers across different cadres was the core reason why health workers in Nairobi were going on strike.

"As NMS we made sure that those who deserve promotion get it,” he said. - MAGDALINE SAYA, The Star

(Edited by Tabnacha Oduor)

 

Disabled Burundians no longer need to buy foreign prosthesis that are often very expensive. The Patrick Ngoga foundation manufactures splints, and other orthopaedic support devices.

A revolution is underway for disabled people in Burundi. In this building housing the Patrick Ngoga foundation, anyone can find crutches, splints, prosthesis and other orthopaedic support devices.

Founder Mr Ngoga suffered an accident during his childhood that impacted his sciatic nerve and left him handicapped.

After three years spent in Japan to study prosthetics and Orthotics, he is back in Burundi. His goal is to help fellow disabled citizens: "Before I completed my training, we had to go abroad to find prosthesis. Nowadays, we don’t need to travel to find affordable ones any more. Many people need prosthesis. Today, prosthetic feet are manufactured in Burundi and patients can buy them at lower prices."

It is fitting day for Chartier Bimenyimana. The man suffered a car accident. He is one of the many people who’ve had their lives transformed by the work of the foundation. "I am very happy. For the past four years, I have been walking with crutches and no pants on. Thanks to this, I can start wearing pants again."

On the national level, associations gathering disabled people have witnessed the positive impact of the foundation. Eugene Nsabayezu, the president of the National Paralympic Committee explains: "Most disabled people come from poor families and they cannot afford prosthesis or any orthopaedic support. If you try to estimate a price, it cost about 1 million or 1 million and a half franc. I can testify that the Ngoga Foundation helps hundreds of people to finally get orthopaedic implants that improve their mobility."

Only one rehabilitation center existed before the Patrick Ngoga foundation was launched. The few people who could afford the prosthesis had to pay out some five thousand US dollars.

If the exact number of disabled people in the Southern African country isn’t known, the prostheses made in Burundi have already been life-changing for many. - By Rédaction Africanews with Francine Sinarinzi

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