courtesy Kenya insights
The more things change, the more they remain the same. One thing that has remained constant for Kenyan cartels is greed. In healthcare, there are faceless white-collar criminals who’ve overtime fed on the agony of poor Kenyans, for them, a disaster is feasting time that’s why this pandemic has been a honeymoon for the numerous gangs who suckled their Kemsa billions and drowned with it. Kenyans are only left with choreographed parliamentary hearings and journalists fed with Abunwasi stories of how oriole passed by Kemsa officers and win tenders to sell papers.
When things got inevitable and vaccines became so necessary, woke Kenyans knew it was just another day for the same industry crooks to jump in and take advantage. It didn’t last a day and a new scandal is already on the table after usual cartels in the private sector rushed to import the vaccine for COVID-19 into Kenya prematurely without considering clean set regulations.
While the government has said that they’ve not authorized businessmen to import any virus, it has emerged that one of the notorious companies Dinlas Pharma EPZ Limited has already ‘sneaked’ in the much hyped Russian vaccine Sputnik-V vaccine.
Dinlas is the main importer of the vaccine and has reportedly appointed Harleys and Unisel as it’s main distributors locally. Officials of Dinlas have insisted that they went through the right channels to import the vaccine and had the right authorization. Mr Nishant Mishra, a senior official at Dinlas Pharmaceuticals, the distributor, told a local newspaper that the vaccine has been imported with the full knowledge and clearance of the PPB. However, the authorities are saying otherwise.
The head of immunisation at the Ministry of Health, Dr Collins Tabu, on Wednesday said he was not aware of the Sputnik V vaccine’s existence in the country, even as the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) said it had only approved its importation but not distribution.
Despite the vaccine having been given a nod by the PPB, Dinlas appears to be dishonest and had circumvented the distribution channel. While insisting that they followed the right channel following alleged authorization of PPB, the authorities officials threw the firm under the.m bus disowning such an agreement.
“This application for distributorship is yet to be approved by PPB, a technical agreement stipulating the responsibilities of all the parties has not been submitted to PPB, the persons and entities are being summoned to appear before the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB),” the communication reads in part.
The drug control board in response to queries from the Nation denied any involvement in the distribution of the vaccine maintaining that its role in all these has only been to test and give approvals for the use but not distribution and pricing.
So why was Dinlas in a hurry to distribute the vaccine before the government gave the final okay and more importantly how was the firm able to import a vaccine that has only been authorized in Kenya for emergency use and not yet for commercial purposes.
Already, we’ve seen unethical practices in pushing the vaccine down the throats of Kenyans including heavy marketing. In the past few days netizens have witnessed efforts by Sputnik-V vaccine using online influencers to advertise the vaccine online which is against medical ethics.
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According Jaydeep Walter who says he’s one of the vaccine distributors, the consignment arrived at the port of Mombasa this week and was due to hit stores as early as today. Kenya Insights has learnt that around 100,000 doses of the vaccine had found their way into Kenya ahead of ministry’s decision to allow private companies to import.
Mombasa Port has been on the Interpol watch and bad press over illicit trades that slips through thanks to rampant corruption and big bad boys controlling the channels. International criminal networks exploit existing informal practices and petty corruption at the Port. It is reported that smugglers and corrupt officials bypass surveillance by falsifying records and picking out specific containers to wave past scanners that could detect contraband. ENACT Observer report found that the poet has been exploited by crooks to smuggle illicit pharmaceuticals into Kenya.
The 2021 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) also flagged the port saying the port is a transit country for a variety of illicit drugs.
Batches of the Sputnik having arrived in Kenya ahead of government’s authorization.
With the vaccine being new in the market, it comes with its own challenges that has been main worries over the safety of the imported vaccines that are not under the supervision of the government. Sputnik-V for example is supposed to be stored under strict temperatures of 2-3 degrees and a small imbalance would likely make the vaccine useless and at worst poisonous. How can Kenyans be sure that unregulated transportation, storage didn’t overlook the precautions? Safety of lives is a priority but is it to any money hungry businessman?
The Interpol has given the latest warning over fake COVID-19 vaccines as the new wave of crime. With criminal groups producing, distributing and selling fake vaccines, the risks to the public are clear: these can include buying a product which not only does not protect against COVID-19, but poses a serious health hazard if ingested or injected. Such products are not tested, regulated or safety-checked.
Legitimate vaccines are not for sale. They are strictly administered and distributed by national healthcare regulators.
Anyone buying these products online also runs the risk of potentially giving their money to organized criminals.
“From the very beginning of the pandemic, criminals have preyed on people’s fears in order to make fast cash. Fake vaccines are the latest in these scams, which is why INTERPOL and HSI are warning the public to be extra vigilant,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
“Anyone ordering a vaccine online rather than obtaining it from their national provider, will be buying a fake product.”
“The networks behind these crimes have global ambitions. No country or region can fight this type of crime alone. INTERPOL is assisting law enforcement around the world to both identify criminal networks and to dismantle them,” added Secretary General Stock.
Following a global alert issued by INTERPOL in late 2020 the world police body recently announced the first internationally linked arrests and seizures in connection with fake vaccines after criminal networks were disrupted in China and South Africa.
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Meanwhile in Kenya, the government has warned Kenyans not to take Russian vaccine yet saying they cannot vouch for its safety and still doing more tests on its safety. Despite having given it a emergency use approval, the Ministry of Health now says the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine has not met all the necessary regulatory approvals for use in the country.
While addressing the question of Sputnik availability in Kenya, Health CAS Mercy Mwangangi said the manufacturer, the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, is yet to furnish Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board with all required information for full licensing.
“A technical agreement stipulating the responsibilities of all the parties involved in the distribution is yet to be submitted to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board. What this means is that the vaccine has therefore not received all the necessary regulatory approvals for use in the country,” she said.
Dr. Mercy Mwangangi also warned against the marketing of the vaccine in the country. “We have already made it clear that we are ready to accept any vaccines and not just the Astrazeneca which is currently in use, but this must follow all the laid down rules for approval both locally and globally. Any vaccine distributed in the country must have Emergency Use Authorization from a Stringent Regulatory Agency including WHO,” she said.
The Ministry noted that despite the approval by PBB, all the parties involved in the distribution are yet to be submitted to the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.
“What this means is that the vaccine has therefore not received all the necessary regulatory approvals for use in the country. No vaccines are available for sale in the country as none has received market authorization,” she added.
With complete disregard to the regulations, the ministry should hunt down and punish parties behind the aggressive marketing of the vaccines which has been heavy on social media lately. Such companies should be slapped with severe consequences.
Kenya has already been using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which has been a victim of vaccine wars in the recent past with alleged cases of serious side effects and lower efficacy. However, in recent update that has silenced the noises, the EU gave the UK’s vaccine a clean bill of health.
Banking on people’s fears, the merchants of Sputnik-V have pumped a lot of money to the less informed and easily persuaded population to buy the vaccine which will be sold in Kenya at an exploitative price of Sh11,000 which is triple the amount its market price, now you can understand the motive behind the push.
Doctors are warning that the efficacy of the vaccine shouldn’t be the main concern but getting vaccinated against the virus should be despite which vaccine one goes for. As Dr Ahmed Khalebi of Lancet and a top pathologist in Kenya notes, any approved vaccine is recommended as it will prevent one getting severely sick and death.
Dinlas EPZ Limited the main distributor of the Russian Sputnik-V is associated with a known healthcare cartel Mr. Jayesh Saini. He’s also the founder and Chairman, Bliss GVS Healthcare Limited which he founded after the collapse of Clinix that was involved in the Sh96 million National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) scandal in 2012 where the money which was meant for civil service and disciplined forces’ medical schemes was lost.
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Most recently, Jayesh was linked by the Auditor General’s office to suspicious City Hall medical insurance of Sh1.73 billion to AAR Insurance Kenya Limited although a contract sum was based at Sh1.07 billion at the time.
One of Jayesh’s many firms, Bliss Healthcare Limited, entered into the deal with AAR Insurance Kenya and Nairobi City County.
Jayesh started his career in the family-owned Nairobi West Hospital, a world-class 260-bed fully-fledged medical facility. In almost 20 years, he has invested greatly in healthcare. Besides Bliss, he owns Medicross Ltd, Windsor Industrial Holdings Ltd.
In 2017, Mr Saini and his wife Dr Shalya added inpatient care by setting up two hospitals under LifeCare Hospitals Ltd. In line with his passion, he is currently setting up another 6 facilities geographically spread in Kenya bringing total bed capacity to 2000. He has also invested in the Energy sector under Surge Energy, he manufactures gas cylinders.
He has been alleged to creating several shell companies in wining healthcare tenders where he enjoys a monopoly. He was reported to have masterminded the scandalous Minet insurance tender with TSC which became a hot topic. He allegedly used a friend I the Sh9B tender.
While the cartels are banking on under informed middle class Kenyans to sell their overpriced vaccine, the government continues with the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, President Uhuru has ordered the entire cabinet and Executive to take the Covid-19 vaccine jab, Chief Of Staff Nzioka Waita confirms.
Governers in Kenya have been leading in taking the jab as a sign of confidence in the vaccine. Healthcare workers have been taking it as well. Kenya is yet to record a severe reaction from the vaccine going to show how safer it is.
Meanwhile, the Poisons Board has launched a massive crackdown on pharmacies in the coastal region following reports that illicit pharmaceuticals are in circulation having been smuggled through the port.