On 1 February 2020 the director of veterinary services (DVS), Obadiah Njagi, issued a circular clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the private sector in the delivery of veterinary medicines and vaccines across Kenya in accordance with the existing laws and regulations. For a long time, the private sector has remained largely detached in vaccination of livestock except for very few vaccines, either due to historical reasons or an assumption that vaccination of cattle was exclusively the responsibility of government. The circular therefore outlines the standard operating guidelines for the participation of private veterinary surgeons, private veterinary paraprofessionals and registered institutions in vaccination of animals.
The policy clarification opens a whole new avenue of investment opportunities for private veterinary services in the sector. In extensive systems, clinical disease treatments are not a feasible means of controlling livestock diseases. It is extremely difficult for veterinary services to thrive due to the vastness of the landscape. Vaccines, on the other hand, offer a huge market, are easier to deliver in extensive livestock systems and offer a more sustainable disease control approach but they have yet to be fully exploited by the private sector. Preliminary data show that with the current livestock numbers in northern Kenya (37 million animals) and high prevalence of major diseases: foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), lysosomal storage diseases (LSD), Rift Valley fever (RVF), Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), and rabies; annual vaccination can easily exceed KSh50 billion (USD486 million) in sales.
The policy is in line with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) public-private partnership (PPP) approach in the veterinary domain. The OIE is convinced of the potential of PPPs to improve the quality of veterinary services worldwide, strengthen the capacities of national veterinary services while building robust and sustainable animal health systems contributing to the health and well-being of human populations.
The clarity of the legal position outlined by the circular offers private sector players an opportunity to engage with counties on partnerships in vaccine delivery. Large pharmaceutical companies which have hitherto given the extensive livestock production systems a wide berth on the assumption there is limited business now have the opportunity to review their positions with regard to vaccine delivery.
The many college leavers in this area who are looking for business opportunities also have a chance. If they are supported in business skills and financial access, they could benefit from this opportunity. The circular is only one step but an important one. Constraints still remain in the way of private sector investment in vaccine delivery. The offer of free vaccines by governments and non-governmental organizations needs to be addressed so that support for vulnerable groups is provided without killing business initiatives. The private sector, therefore, will need to engage with county authorities to explore the business opportunities along the vaccine delivery value chain such as procurement (from pre-approved distributors), conduct publicity campaigns and vaccination.
It is hoped that with private sector involvement, a significant increase in access to disease control management solutions in general and vaccines in particular in vulnerable communities will occur, reducing the current impact of diseases, which is estimated to be the cause of 25% of all animal losses. Access to preventative veterinary services will lead to healthier herds, improved incomes, and food and nutritional security.
The main lesson from this development is the need to be cautious of opinion-based practices or legislation. As a country, the opportunities that have been lost as a result of this misconception of the law have been enormous. This misconception was so institutionalized to the extent that public officials were denying private sector practitioners’ authority to vaccinate because they believed it was the law. One would ask why did it took so long to find the truth? The answer, a research organization was needed to ask the right questions and find the core problems before a solution could be found. A clear example of the importance of research in development.
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