Uproar as Kenya offers Covid-19 vaccine to thousands of diplomats based in Nairobi

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe received the first batch of Covid-19 at JKIA on Tuesday, March 2, 2021/ UNICEF

The move by Kenya to offer Covid-19 vaccines to all diplomats based in Kenya — including thousands of United Nations staff — has caused uproar among citizens.

In a Reuters report on Saturday, Kenya seeks to vaccinate diplomats in Nairobi even though it has not completed inoculating its own health workers, other frontline staff or the elderly.

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau made the offer in a March 18 letter sent to diplomatic missions and seen by Reuters. Macharia Kamau.

“We need to protect everyone resident in Kenya. It just made sense not to reach out only to Kenyans but also to the international community here,” Kamau said

He estimated that 25,000 to 30,000 diplomats, UN staff and family members live in Nairobi.

“We are the only United Nations capital headquarters in the global South. Once you have this kind of honour, it comes with a certain responsibility,” he said.

As of March 19. Kenya had only vaccinated just over 28,000 health workers, teachers and security personnel.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that the continent is facing significant challenges in gaining access to Covid-19 vaccines.

This, Africa CDC said, has hindered Africa from achieving its goal of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of its population.

“I think the government should focus on getting the priority population vaccinated and achieving vaccine acceptancy with them before opening up to diplomats,” Elizabeth Gitau, a physician and Kenya Medical Association CEO told Reuters.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union acting secretary general Chibanzi Mwachonda said Kenyans must be prioritised.

Al Jazeera English producer Hamza Mohamed tweeted, “Kenya can’t vaccine all its frontline workers but wants to give free coronavirus jabs to Nairobi-based diplomats, including thousands of UN staff.”

Dr Hussein Abkallo posed, “”Why does the Kenyan government prioritise expats – who have money and can get the vaccines through their own channels – over its own population, especially the poor?”

Andrew Franklin, an American living in Kenya said, “Please note that only diplomats and staffers of international organisations are beneficiaries of this GOK largesse. Despite outward appearances, not all foreigners are considered equal! Vaccine Apartheid on display in Kenya?”

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