Kenya expects 24 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to start arriving next month

Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya has ordered 24 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and expects them to start arriving in the second week of February, its health minister said.

The East African nation of around 47 million people has so far reported 97,398 cases of COVID-19 and 1,694 deaths. Its economy is also reeling from pandemic-related disruptions.

Mutahi Kagwe, the health minister, was quoted by the local Standard newspaper on Thursday as saying the vaccines would start landing next month.

A public communications official at the ministry told Reuters the report was accurate.

AstraZeneca and its partner Oxford University tested the vaccine based on giving recipients two shots each, a few weeks apart. The minister did not give any information about dosing.

The government has ordered the vaccines through an African Union initiative aimed at ensuring African nations are not left behind, Kagwe said. There will also be direct importation of the shots, he said.

Priority for vaccination will be given to health sector workers and other essential workers like teachers, the minister said.

He did not say how much the procurement of the vaccines would cost the government.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri. Editing by Mark Potter