Covid vaccines seized in private health units

Monday June 14 2021
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Some people have allegedly been paying to get the Covid jabs in private facilities. PHOTO/AFP

By Nobert Atukunda
By Andrew Bagala

Police have widened criminal investigations into the theft of coronavirus vaccines from government health facilities and are being sold in private facilities. 

At least 10 people from two health facilities in Kampala were arrested for selling Coronavirus vaccines and other government equipment. 

Police Directorate of Crime Intelligence detained the suspects. 
At least 600 coronavirus doses have been recovered.

Deputy spokesperson of Kampala Metropolitan Police Luke Owoyesigyire confirmed the arrest, saying an operation to recover more stolen vaccine doses is underway in different parts of Kampala Metropolitan area. 

“Five suspects were arrested at Trucare medical centre modern diagnostic laboratory, Mulago. Another five were arrested at Victoria Pharmacy in Ntinda. Test tubes and Ministry of Health test tubes and cards were recovered,” Mr Owoyesigyire said yesterday. 

The government in early March received 964,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from the Covax facility . 
By yesterday, 77,805 people had been vaccinated, but we couldn’t readily get the number of doses that the Ministry of Health had used. 

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Majority of the vaccinated people have just taken their first jab. The vaccines were for elderly people above 50 years of age, public servants such as like police officers and teachers, and those with underlying illnesses. 

When the vaccination campaign started in March, not many people responded for fear of the unknown.
Following the new coronavirus strains that affected younger people and those who didn’t have underlying illnesses , many rushed for the jab. 

People have reportedly been paying between Shs300,000 and Shs500,000 to get Covid-19 jabs in private health facilities. 
It is alleged that some government health workers were charging those who wanted to get vaccines but were not eligible to get them. 

A source in the Ministry of Health said several health facilities that were given the vaccines are unable to account for them, which prompted a criminal investigation.

The investigation is being carried out by police and the Ministry of Health.
Dr Alfred Driwale, the programme manager of Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunisation, said pharmacies are not supposed to be carrying out Covid-19 vaccination.

Coronavirus vaccines were given to local governments and security forces. Only a few private health facilities in Kampala Capital City were allowed to vaccinate and they were getting doses from Kampala Capital City Authority.

“Even the vaccines we were using at the Ministry of Health, we would pick them from Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) because we were vaccinating in the jurisdiction of KCCA,” Dr Driwale said.

He confirmed that they have run out of coronavirus vaccines and they are auditing whether there are doses still held at the district level.
“We should not be having vaccines this week,” Dr Driwale said.

He couldn’t readily share with us a balance sheet of the doses they received against those that they have used.
The government has been accusing India and other western countries of hoarding vaccines. Uganda has booked vaccines from India. 

The pharmaceutical company couldn’t meet its obligation because the Indian government imposed a ban on export of vaccines until their population was covered.

The Ministry of Health had to suspend mass vaccination at Kololo Independence Grounds after thousands of people responded to the call, but they didn’t have enough doses and manpower to handle the huge numbers.

The government imposed 42-day travel ban last week to contain the spread of the virus. 
President Museveni said teachers who haven’t been vaccinated will not be allowed to teach. 

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