Over one million COVID-19 vaccine doses arrive in Nairobi, via COVAX facility

Delivery marks the start of Kenya's vaccination campaign

02 March 2021
COVID - 19 vaccine arrives in Kenya
A police officer stands watch as the first batch of the COVID - 19 vaccine consignment is offloaded on the tarmac at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, 2 March 2021 – Just before midnight, 1.02 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Nairobi. The vaccines were transported by UNICEF as part of the COVAX facility, which aims to provide equitable access to vaccines for all countries around the world. The vaccines arrived on Qatar Airways flight QR1341, which was met at the airport by senior Kenya Government officials led by Cabinet Secretary for Health Hon Mutahi Kagwe, UNICEF Representative to Kenya Maniza Zaman and World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative to Kenya Dr Rudi Eggers.

“This is a historic day for Kenya, marking an important milestone in our fight against COVID-19,” Cabinet Secretary for Health Hon Mutahi Kagwe said. “This has been made possible by the leadership of His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta and the hard work of the Ministry of Health. I would like to thank UNICEF, WHO and GAVI for their support in procuring and transporting these life-saving vaccines and the Kenyan people for their cooperation over the past 11.5 months.”

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has developed a deployment plan for the vaccines, with healthcare workers and other essential workers including security personnel, being offered the vaccine first. Vaccines will be moved from central vaccine store to nine regional vaccine stores, from where the counties will collect and distribute the vaccines to local hospitals at county and sub-county level. The first vaccination sites will be one nominated vaccinating health facility per county, the national referral hospitals and select private health facilities.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which was manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and made available to the COVAX facility thanks to an advance purchase agreement between Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and SII, were procured and transported by UNICEF's Supply Division in Copenhagen. The first consignment of 1.02 million doses is part of an initial allocation to Kenya of 3.56 million doses. In addition, UNICEF is providing 1,025,000 syringes and 10,250 safety boxes to Kenya, via a global stockpile funded and supported by Gavi. However, Kenya already has enough in-country stocks of syringes and safety boxes for the first phase of vaccinations.

“With the arrival of these vaccines, UNICEF and partners are honouring the promise of the COVAX facility to ensure people from less wealthy countries are not left behind in the global roll out of life-saving vaccines,” UNICEF Representative to Kenya Maniza Zaman said. “UNICEF is proud to be part of a partnership supporting the Government of Kenya in this vital work. I would also like to thank the countries that have donated to COVAX. Each step on this journey brings us further along the path to recovery for the millions of Kenyan children and families affected by COVID-19.”

UNICEF, WHO and partners are also supporting the Government’s communication campaign to raise awareness of the vaccination campaign while increasing trust in the COVID-19 vaccine. Support is being provided to counter myths and misconceptions about COVID vaccines and to encourage people to get the vaccine as it becomes available to them.

“The World Health Organisation is honoured to be part of this unprecedented global vaccination campaign – the largest such response in human history,” WHO Representative to Kenya Dr. Rudi Eggers said. “In the coming weeks, frontline health workers in Kenya will start to receive the vaccines, protecting them as they treat the victims of COVID, and provide essential health services. I can assure health workers and the Kenyan public that these vaccines are safe and effective. With this vaccination we will get much closer to end this pandemic. However, while these vaccines are being rolled out, please let us continue the public health measures in place, such as the masks, the social distancing and avoiding congested gatherings and settings.”

Over the past several months, COVAX partners have been supporting governments around the world, in preparation for moments like this one in Kenya. This includes assisting with the development of national vaccination plans, support for cold chain infrastructure, as well as stockpiling of half a billion syringes and safety boxes for their disposal, masks, gloves and other equipment to ensure that there is enough equipment for health workers to start vaccinating priority groups as soon as possible.

“We know that this pandemic will not end in one country until it has ended in all countries,” said Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director for Country Programmes at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “The first arrivals of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Kenya represents the start of equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. These first doses are for the vaccination of frontline health workers which are critical to the COVID-19 response and the maintenance of all health services."

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others. COVAX is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

COVAX has built a diverse portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations, and is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX Facility participants supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC.

Photos and video

You can download photos and video of the vaccines arriving in Kenya here: https://bit.ly/37SnBMX 

Media contacts

Mburugu Gikunda
Media Advisor
Ministry of Health
Tel: 0722521366
Joy Wanja Muraya
Communication Specialist
Tel: 0721 466 267


COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries. List of donor pledges to the Gavi COVAX AMC is available here.

About CEPI

CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, launched at Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics. CEPI has moved with great urgency and in coordination with WHO in response to the emergence of COVID-19. CEPI has initiated ten partnerships to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus. The programmes are leveraging rapid response platforms already supported by CEPI as well as new partnerships.

About Gavi

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 822 million children – and prevented more than 14 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines.

About WHO

The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing.


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org. For more information about COVID-19, visit www.unicef.org/coronavirus . Find out more about UNICEF’s work on the COVID-19 vaccines here, or about UNICEF’s work on immunization here.