The National Assembly’s Departmental Committee on Health has been put on the spot over Covid-19 vaccine trials in the country.

During a Senate sitting on Tuesday, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir requested a statement from the Committee’s chairperson on the status of the Oxford University’s Covid-19 vaccine trials in Kenya.

“Oxford University has engaged AstraZeneca Plc, which is a British-Swedish multinational biopharmaceutical company based in Cambridge, England, to develop a Covid-19 vaccine on its behalf by conducting differentiated human trials in Kenya,” Nassir noted.

The lawmaker pointed out that similar Covid-19 vaccine trials were halted in the United Kingdom earlier this month and questioned the rationale behind their continued experimentation in Kenya.

“It is on account of this expectation that I seek a statement from the chairperson of the Departmental Committee on Health. Have any Covid-19 vaccine trials been undertaken in Kenya since the outbreak of the pandemic, and are there any clinical trials currently in progress?” the MP posed, adding: “Were key stakeholders in the country consulted before Oxford University was granted greenlight to conduct its Covid-19 vaccine trials in Kenya?”

Nassir also wanted to know how many similar Covid-19 clinical trials have been conducted in the country and their respective status.

This comes a week after the Kenyan government approved the first Covid-19 vaccine trials to be conducted in the country in collaboration with Oxford University.

The Health Ministry said 400 healthcare workers including doctors, nurses, clinical officers, pharmacists, mortuary attendants, and allied healthcare professionals will be recruited to take part in phased clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccine.

Health CAS Rashid Aman said all the protocols for the trials have been finalised and the country was ready to start.

“We are on track with the trials which are at phase 3 which is advanced. We shall recruit some 4,000 people to undertake the trials. Even if the early trials are stopped for one reason or the other, the government’s interest is to be involved in this phase three trial through our Kemri Welcome Trust Programme,” said Aman.

The Health CAS also said the government has approved the use of convalescent plasma in clinical trials across the country. Plasma is believed to contain powerful antibodies that can help fight off the disease faster.

“We have reviewed our protocols to include plasma in our trials though there are some questions that are still being handled through research as we gain a better understanding of the disease,” Aman said.

Global trials of the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had been halted after a serious and unexpected adverse reaction in a participant in the UK.

But Oxford University later said it had been deemed safe to continue.