By Elizabeth Kamurungi
By Nobert Atukunda
Only two out of every 10 targeted health workers in the country have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in the nationwide vaccination programme the government launched on March 10 .
As of yesterday, only 2,841 people countrywide had received jabs against Covid-19, which is 1.89 per cent of the target of 150,000 healthcare workers the government hoped to have vaccinated by March 15.
Government officials in the Ministry of Health confirmed the figures and blamed the “small numbers” on the delays in the distribution of some supplies such as consent forms and cards.
A week after government launched Covid-19 vaccination, it emerged yesterday that some districts were still keeping the vaccines in stores yet all the 146 District Health Officers now have the vaccines and all the necessary materials needed for inoculation.
Dr Alfred Driwale, the head of immunisation at the Ministry of Health, dismissed the assumption that there is a low turn up of health workers, but blamed the few numbers of people vaccinated on late arrival of the vaccines and other essential logistics in districts.
“The distribution of vaccines took longer than earlier anticipated. So, by Friday [last week], we were still distributing. Normally, we take 10 days to distribute in every part of the country but this time in five days,” Dr Driwale said.
He said there were also challenges with preparations in districts to distribute the vaccines to different vaccination points.
“Some districts received vaccines on Friday and could not vaccinate at the weekend so they started on Monday because we agreed and adjusted the dates. Our new position now is that all districts must start vaccinating by tomorrow [today]…,” Dr Driwale said.
The country’s immunisation boss also said some district leaders also asked to organise an official launch. “If you see the numbers vaccinated yesterday [Monday], they were more than 900 and so the numbers are going up,” he said.
Dr Charles Olaro, the director of clinical services at the ministry, said a cumulative total of 2,841 people had been vaccinated across the country, majority of whom being health workers, including some politicians, security personnel, teachers and journalists.
Even if no link is proven between AstraZeneca and the blood clot incidents reported in more than 10 countries across the world, some governments, especially in Europe, have suspended or delayed using the vaccine pending investigations. There are growing fears that suspension of the vaccine is likely to damage public confidence in the AstraZeneca shot.
In Uganda, none of the 2,841 people who took the first dose of the vaccine reported serious side effects. Health minister Ruth Aceng; army chiefs Gen David Muhoozi, and Gen Muhoozi Keinerugaba, have since openly taken the jab to boost public confidence.
Health facilities under Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) just received the vaccines yesterday, according to the head of public health, Dr Daniel Okello. Mulago Hospital is directly controlled by the Ministry of Health.
On the shortfalls at KCCA health facilities, Dr Driwale said: “All districts received vaccines except KCCA, which recieved only today (yesterday) because their plans were not yet finalised. We supply according to the plans. By yesterday, only Makindye and Central Division had plans and we directed that they receive vaccines.”
The ministry didn’t reveal the number of districts that have started vaccination. But on Sunday, Dr Driwale revealed that six districts were already vaccinating.
Alteration of vaccination plan
Dr Aceng said the order of priority still stands but that there may be alterations due to some challenges.
“Teachers should commence today [yesterday]. But there was some gap during the weekend, because the private sector had challenges in registering their workers. Many of their workers are not permanent workers. So that means even as we are vaccinating the teachers, we will be continuing with health workers,” she said.
On March 5, while receiving the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines at Entebbe International Airport, Dr Aceng said: “The initial group [to be vaccinated] will be health workers in public health facilities followed by those in private facilities. This will be done from March 10 to 15. Thereafter, we shall have teachers and the exercise will begin from March 16 to 19 of this year.”
Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, the secretary general of Uganda Medical Association, said: “In some facilities, the vaccines reached but some items like syringes or vaccination cards are not there.”