UAE royal linked to failed Russian Covid jab in Kenya

Russian coronavirus vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.


A member of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) royal family has been implicated in a multi-million shilling botched deal to supply one million Russian Covid-19 vaccines to Kenya.

A news report by Russian newspaper Moscow Times named Aurugulf Health Investments — a firm registered in the UAE and linked to the Emirati royalty — as an official reseller of Russia’s flagship coronavirus vaccine named Sputnik V doses in Kenya.

The UAE firm reportedly secured a lucrative contract with Kenya-based private healthcare company Dinlas Pharma to ship at least one million jabs to Kenya. The deal eventually collapsed after the Kenyan government learned the first shipment of 75,000 doses, which arrived on March 22, had not come directly from the Russian government and subsequently blocked them from use at a time Covid-19 cases were surging, the paper reported.

The Kenya agreement is outlined in a letter from the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) — the Kremlin-run sovereign fund, which is leading the development and export of Sputnik V — to Kenyan Health Cabinet secretary Mutahi Kagwe, obtained by The Moscow Times and seen by Business Daily.

The letter states that three batches of Sputnik V — two containing its first dose and the third consisting of the vaccine’s second dose — had been delivered to Kenya on March 22 with RDIF’s knowledge and approval.

Kenya was the sixth country for which The Moscow Times said it found evidence that Russia awarded Aurugulf or the Emirati royal Maktoum Sputnik V resale rights. It is the third country where the deal has been brokered with private healthcare companies, bypassing the government’s vaccine rollouts.

The Business Daily could not immediately get a comment from the UAE embassy in Kenya by press time. Kenya’s Dinlas Pharma reportedly paid significantly more than Russia’s advertised price for Sputnik V to obtain the jabs via Aurugulf, the UAE registered firm.

According to a pricing schedule obtained by The Moscow Times, Dinlas paid $18.50 (Sh1,998) per dose of the vaccines — almost twice Russia’s factory price of $9.95 (Sh1,074) — and planned to sell them to clients in Kenya for $42 (Sh4,536) each.

Both Maktoum and Aurugulf reportedly have connections to the powerful Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE’s national security adviser and brother of the leader of Abu Dhabi. The Kenyan government blocked the use of the first batch of 75,000 jabs after it learned the vaccines had not been delivered directly by the Russian government and banned their use on April 2, having initially granted an emergency use authorisation for Sputnik V on March 9.

The current status of the imported Russian vaccines is unknown, the paper reported. One of the three batches expires at the end of this month and another at the end of August. Kenya, which went into a partial lockdown on March 26 after a surge of infections and deaths, started vaccinating the public using just over one million shots secured through the global Covax vaccine-sharing facility free-of-charge from public hospitals.

Kenya and a host other low- and middle-income countries depend on the United Nations-backed Covax facility, a multi-organisation global initiative to access the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines.

“There will be no licensing of private players in the importation of vaccines and any such licence given will be and is hereby cancelled,” said Mr Kagwe on April 2.

“Only 228 Kenyans who have received their first dose of Sputnik V vaccine will be allowed to get their second dose, which was due after 21 days,” Mr Kagwe noted as he banned the importation of Covid-19 vaccines by the private sector on April 2.

The ban on private imports will stay in place until the government becomes confident “that there is greater transparency and accountability in the entire process,” Mr Kagwe added then.

“The rest of the consignment can be sold to other countries. In March, Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund, which is promoting the Sputnik V vaccine globally, said Morocco and Kenya had approved the jab for use.

Kenya will receive the first batch of 13 million Covid-19 vaccine shots from Johnson & Johnson in August, President Uhuru Kenyatta said in June, helping to accelerate the country’s vaccination drive.

Like other nations on the continent, Kenya has struggled to secure vaccines for its citizens, to allow it to fully lift restrictions aimed at containing the pandemic.

Source: Business Daily Africa