The Ministry of Health has named Jinja, Kyotera, Rukiga, Sheema, and Rukingiri as the best districts in vaccine uptake following the commencement of the exercise on March 10.
The top 20 best districts in uptake had rates ranging from 91.6 percent to 107.9 percent, while those with worst uptake had rates ranging from 33.9 percent to 54.7 percent.
Terego, Bunyangabo, Buvuma, Amuru, Namisindwa districts exhibited the worst uptake, according to the Ministry.
Vaccine uptake refers to the proportion of the eligible population who received a vaccine during a specific time period.
This is influenced by people’s attitudes and beliefs regarding vaccination, side effects, ease of access and capacity to mobilise people, according to information from the World Health Organisation.
Addressing journalists in Kampala yesterday, Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Ministry of Health spokesperson, blamed the low uptake on poor coordination in some districts.
Mr Ainebyoona cited Butaleja District which has not utilised vaccines at its disposal.
“They were also supposed to have prepared stakeholders meetings to communicate to teachers on where to get vaccines, which has not happened. We appeal to the authorities to ensure they drum up support for the vaccination,” he said.
The district health officer, Dr Siraj Kizito, couldn’t be reached for comment, but Mr Filbert Baguma, the general secretary of Uganda National Teachers’ Union blamed the low uptake on reported cases of serious side effects like blood clots, misinformation, and “poor” approaches used by the Ministry of Health to promote vaccination.
Dr Juliet Ajok, the USAID regional Health Integration to Enhance Services in East Central Uganda Child Health Technical Advisor, told University Research Company (URC) that low uptake among health workers was because they “were exposed to a lot of misinformation and that “the timing was difficult.”
Statistics from the Ministry indicate that as of September 13, at least 61 out of 135 districts in the country had less than 70 percent uptake while as high as 34 (25 percent) of the districts had less than 60 percent. Surprisingly, up to 11 (eight percent) had less than 50 percent uptake of vaccines distributed to them.
So far, 1,697,748 (78.8 percent of all doses distributed) doses of the Covid-19 vaccines have been administered.
The country has received 2,799,920 doses of Covid-19 vaccines, comprising AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Moderna...
When asked whether a shortage of funds possibly crippled implementation, Mr Ainebyoona, said there should be no excuses for not using vaccines delivered.
“We continuously engage with local government and city authorities to address any challenges. Some of these [Covid-19] vaccines can be administered by health workers who provide routine vaccination in the facilities which are in almost all sub-counties,” he said, adding, “We applaud city and local government authorities who have led this effort to ensure that vaccines distributed to them through the national medical stores are well utilised and ensure that all the priority.”
In a race against time
Mr Ainebyoona added that since the expiry date for the latest vaccine distributed is September 30, it is “urgent that all districts speed up proper utilisation of available doses so the country doesn’t lose doses through expiry hence denting the consumption commitments made at global level.”
The Ministry has also released a set of recommendations to districts to speed up the uptake and these include quickly reviewing their vaccination plan to ensure no dose is left in the district by September 30.
The Ministry has also asked leaders to develop a Subcounties-based supervision plan by the district leadership, District Health Team (DHT) and partners, to vaccinate ALL patients/clients at chronic care clinics (cancer, hypertensive, diabetic, HIV, TB) this week.
“Do not turn away clients above 18 years outside the high risk groups (to reduce risk of expiry). Account for every dose of Covid-19 vaccine ever received. All data for vaccine stocks and all persons vaccinated including Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) MUST be promptly entered into the EPIVAC system by the end of each day,” the directives read.
Mr Ainebyoona revealed that the government is also expecting four million doses of vaccines between this month and next month and that plans are underway to dispatch the 647,080 doses of Moderna vaccines which were received a few weeks ago.