NAIROBI, 22 March 2021 – The Kenyan government has drawn sharp criticism from local medics and other health workers for offering COVID-19 vaccinations to thousands of diplomats.

Kenya’s foreign ministry extended the offer to the diplomatic corps in a letter dated last March 18.

COVID-19 Vaccinations Ongoing in Kenya - Photo UNICEF

COVID-19 Vaccinations Ongoing in Kenya – Photo UNICEF

Chibanzi Mwachonda, head of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union - Photo Nation

Chibanzi Mwachonda, head of Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists & Dentists Union – Photo Nation

Thousands of United Nations staff and their families would benefit, getting vaccinated ahead of frontline health professionals and the elderly.

“Kenyans must be given priority,” said Chibanzi Mwachonda, head of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union.

The principal secretay at Kenya’s foreign ministry, Macharia Kamau, has defended the decision, pointing out among others that Kenyans who are in the priority groups are still being vaccinated.

More than 28,000 Kenyan health workers, teachers and security personnel had received their first shots, the country’s health ministry said in a March 19 post on Twitter.

First Delivery of Kenya's Over One Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses - Photo Voice of America

First Delivery of Kenya’s Over One Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses – Photo Voice of America

Earlier in the month, Kenya’s health ministry announced that it had set aside 400,000 vaccines for health staff and other essential workers.

Kamau reminded fellow Kenyans that the vaccine doses the country has received were supplied via the World Health Organization (WHO) co-led COVAX vaccine access scheme.

Besides, he added, “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”.

A woman receives the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine - Photo Monicah Mwangi, Reuters

A woman receives the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine – Photo Monicah Mwangi, Reuters

The Kenyan foreign ministry says the offer is in keeping with the country’s responsibilities as home to a large diplomatic community.

Some 25,000 to 30,000 diplomats, UN staff and their famiy members live in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, which also hosts the United Nations headquarters for Africa.

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

The vaccinations of diplomats is due to start Tuesday and will be extended only to accredited diplomats and members of their families, the Kenyan foreign ministry offer letter said.

Kenya has received 1.1 milion doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, so far – just over one million via COVAX and a 100,000 thanks to a donation from the Indian government.

Nearly 2,000 Kenyans have succumbed to complciations arising from infections with COVID-19, with a record 28 deaths in a 24-hour period last Friday.

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