Uganda will receive the first batch of Covid-19 vaccine donations from COVAX facility on Friday.
While updating the media on Covid-19 vaccination yesterday, Health Minister Ruth Jane Aceng said the initial batch of 864,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in the country on March 5 and the launch will be on March 8 while vaccination will kick off on March 10.
“The COVAX Facility has communicated a tentative allocation of 3,552,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Uganda for the period January to June 2021. Of the above allocation, 864,000 doses are expected to arrive by March 5 and the remaining 2,688,000 by June 2021,” Dr Aceng said.
She said she will also be vaccinated to encourage the rest of the public to go for the voluntary vaccination that will require individual consent.
Uganda targets to vaccinate 49.6 per cent of the population (about 21.9m) in a phased manner and each phase targets to cover 20 per cent of the targeted population, according to Ministry of Health.
A total of 864,000 doses will cover 432,000 people that are given two doses each. This means the country will have vaccinated about 1.9 per cent of the total target between now and June.
“The direct financial obligation for Uganda to vaccinate 49.6 per cent of the Ugandan population (21936011) stands at (at least) $162.8m (about Shs582b) arising from the cost of vaccines and supplies, handling, storage and distribution and related operational costs for deploying vaccines received through COVAX and that directly bought by government,” Dr Aceng said.
Uganda will need up to 45 million doses of vaccines if all two doses are provided to vaccinate a population of about 22 million and extra doses to cater for the refugee population, according to the Ministry of Health.
Earlier, the Ministry of Health had communicated that 60 per cent of the population is to be vaccinated. However, Dr Aceng said following new and additional information, the criteria has been shifted to 49.6 per cent where those above 18 years will be vaccinated unlike the earlier communication of vaccinating people aged 16 or above.
“The vaccines available up to now are not yet authorised for use in persons younger than 18 years of age in whom research is still ongoing. If vaccines become available for below the age of 18, the ministry will update its plan accordingly,” Dr Aceng said.
All health workers from public, not-for-profit private health facilities will be the first group to be vaccinated, followed by teachers, persons aged above 50, those aged between 18 to 50 with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, organ disease, among others as priority groups. “Health workers are at the frontline in response to Covid-19 and are vulnerable to infection as has been shown by the statistics of infection and death. Once they are protected, they will be motivated to continue providing health care s. Teachers are extremely important as we prepare to reopen schools for our children…,” Dr Aceng said.
She added that phase one of the vaccination will focus on 150,000 health workers, 250,000 security personnel, 550,000 teachers and 500,000 persons with underlying health conditions aged below 50 years, among others.
According to Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, the general secretary of Uganda Medical Association, there are about 5,000 doctors in the country, though this number does not include nurses and midwives, pharmacists and allied health professionals.
Estimations of quantities of vaccines required for the security forces is ongoing, according to Ministry of Health.
Dr Alfred Driwale, the assistant commissioner in charge of vaccines and immunisation at the Ministry of Health, said security personnel will be one of the priorities in the batch of vaccines arriving on Friday because they also have health workers and the elderly within them.
Other emerging high risk and priority essential groups are airlines, media, prisoners, tour operators, and humanitarian workers. Each person is to receive two doses of Covid-19 vaccine given eight weeks apart though this can be extended up to 12 weeks as recommended by WHO strategic advisory group.
Dr Aceng said the Health ministry has designated health centres III, IV, district hospitals, regional referral hospitals, national referral hospitals and specialised institutions as vaccination service points in each district and city.
“All persons eligible for vacation will be required to provide a national identification card in the case of Ugandan citizens or a passport in the case of non-Ugandans...,” Dr Aceng said.
In phase two and three, government will roll out the vaccination programme to age groups between 18 and 50 years in a staggered manner.