Health, Africa

Uganda’s slow pace of COVID-19 vaccination sounds alarm bells

Vaccines received so far have short shelf life, with most expiring by end of October

Hamza Kyeyune   | 18.10.2021
Uganda’s slow pace of COVID-19 vaccination sounds alarm bells

KAMPALA, Uganda 

Uganda is falling far short of its target to vaccinate priority groups by the end of this year, hampered by accessibility issues and vaccine supplies with short shelf life.

The country has received 5.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines through donations and direct procurement, but only 2.4 million have been utilized, with the rest lying idle in storage.

Out of the 2.4 million doses administered, only 584,066 people out of the country’s population of over 46 million are fully vaccinated, with 1.8 million receiving a single shot.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said the country plans to vaccinate about 22 million people above the age of 18 starting with 4.8 million people by the end of December in priority groups which include health workers, teachers, security personnel, the elderly and people with comorbidities.

The government warned that the country would not be fully reopened following a second lockdown imposed on June 18 until these 4.8 million people were vaccinated.

But by the end of September, less than 5% of the targeted population had been vaccinated.

The latest Health Ministry statistics show that only 81,950 out of the targeted 550,000 teachers have been fully vaccinated and 51,300 out of 150,000 health workers have been double jabbed while only 48,500 out of 250,000 security personnel have been administered vaccines twice.

The country has failed to achieve the September target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for countries to have vaccinated at least 10% of their initially targeted population. Health experts are sounding alarm bells over the slow pace of vaccination.

President Yoweri Museveni on Sept. 22 directed all local district leaders to mobilize the public to get vaccinated, threatening them with dismissal if any vaccines expire on their watch.

Yet the vaccines received so far in Uganda have a short life span, most of them expiring by the end of October.

Health Minister Aceng meanwhile said that a lack of accessibility has hampered the vaccination drive in the countryside.

"The challenge is accessibility. Uganda is large, and there are many districts out there where we have not sent adequate vaccines, but also the vaccination points are few,” she said.

“The ones [vaccination points] in Kampala have just been increased over the last few weeks, and that is why people can access them from anywhere. We are concluding on the vaccination plan that will see us taking vaccines closer to the people now that the vaccine [doses in the country] have increased,” she told journalists in Kampala.

Analysts have raised concern over the government’s strategy and the low vaccine uptake among the priority groups who are on the frontlines.

Swaib Kaggwa, a Kampala-based analyst, told Anadolu Agency there is no way the government will be able to reach its target by the end of this year.

“In order to meet the deadline, the government would have vaccinated at least half of its targeted priority population by now. The people who are sitting in government assume that poor people will go and line up a whole day to get a jab on an empty stomach! They don't really know what is happening at the ground level. The viable way of doing this is having mobile vaccination sites and find people in their areas of the dwelling,” he said.

Dr. Immaculate Ampaire, assistant manager of the Uganda National Expanded Program on Immunization (UNEPI), told Anadolu Agency that the Health Ministry has identified new COVID-19 vaccination centers, which are accessible by a large number of people presumed to be at risk of infection, such as taxi drivers, and inoculation has commenced.

Dr. Misaki Wayengera, the chairperson of the Ministry of Health’s Scientific Advisory Committee, said the issue hindering the success of the ongoing vaccination exercise is the fact that it is voluntary.

“We have not been pushing people hard to get vaccinated, and I think that is something to be looked at and considered. I will tell you that in some European cities, you cannot enter some public spaces if you are not vaccinated, and maybe those requirements might become mandatory as we go ahead,” he said.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
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