What you need to know:
- The April 13 statistics from the Ministry of Health state that of the 90,142 health workers who have so far been registered all over the country to take the jabs, only 20,405 (23 per cent) have been vaccinated.
The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) is protesting a proposal by some district leaders that every eligible citizen be given the Covid-19 vaccine whether or not they consent.
Such enforced immunisation would render the official or government liable to legal suits, the association leaders warned yesterday, saying mandatory administration of the jab amounts to rights violation.
The country is struggling with low uptake of the vaccines with hesitancy among health workers being one of the highest.
The district leaders argue that the move will improve the uptake.
The UMA president, Dr Richard Idro, told journalists in Kampala yesterday that no one should be forced to take the vaccine because healthcare is an individual’s right.
“UMA has learnt with concern from the press that, in some districts, the political leadership has issued orders for health workers to be vaccinated and further, tagging non-vaccination to withholding the pay of the health workers and teachers in question. This would imply absence of consent in an activity that should be voluntary,” Dr Idro said. He added: “To the leadership in the districts, forcing people to get vaccinated or tagging salary to being vaccinated is a gross violation of human rights and work ethics that can attract legal redress.”
This comes a week after the Resident District Commissioner of Amuru, Mr Geoffrey Oceng, passed a directive in the district, asking all health workers to take the Covid-19 jabs.
“From the 3,000 doses of the vaccine we have, up to date, we have only vaccinated 45 people from the 3,000 doses we received. This means there is a problem. So this made me direct the district health officer to ensure that within one week, all health workers are vaccinated,” he said on April 14.
The April 13 statistics from the Ministry of Health state that of the 90,142 health workers who have so far been registered all over the country to take the jabs, only 20,405 (23 per cent) have been vaccinated. The country has an estimated total of 150,000 health workers, according to the Ministry.
Some teachers are also saying they are being forced by the management to take the Covid-19 jabs as a requirement to stop Covid-19 in schools.
But the available information from World Health Organisation indicates that there is no clear evidence that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is being used in the country stop the transmission of the virus or protects one from infection. Dr Alfred Driwale, the head of immunisation programme at the Ministry of Health, said their objective of vaccination using AstraZeneca is to stop severe Covid-19 related deaths.
This action conflicts with previous declaration by the government that vaccination is voluntary because the serum is new and has only been given emergency approval for use in inoculating the population.
Asked about the UMA protest, Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said they are sticking to the policy of voluntary Covid-19 vaccination.
“It is an allegation that we need to investigate. But our policy now is to make people consent to take the vaccine without coercion. I appeal to the local government to ensure that they supplement our message which is calling upon members of the public to get vaccinated,” Mr Ainebyoona said.
A total of 232,514 have so far been vaccinated using the 964,000 doses of the vaccines acquired last month through donations. Government plans to vaccinate 22 million Ugandans.
Dr Richard Idro asked the ministry to increase investment in vaccine awareness campaign, facilitate logistics to let vaccines reach every targeted person and educate the health workers to understand the safety and accept the vaccination.
He asked health workers and other eligible people to go for the jabs, saying they are safe. “Covid-19 vaccine being administered by the Ministry of Health has been tested as safe for use in Uganda just like in many other countries that are using it. So, please get vaccinated without hesitancy. You may experience some minor side effects,” Dr Idro said.