The management of First Pharmacy, a major human medicine outlet in Kampala, yesterday rejected accusation by Uganda Police Force that it caught their staff selling stolen Covid-19 vaccines.
Various media outlets quoted Mr Luke Owoyesigire, the Kampala Metropolitan Police deputy spokesperson, as claiming that their officers confiscated used vials of AstraZeneca and more than 800 unused doses during a raid on Sunday.
Mr Ahmed Yusufu, the managing director of First Pharmacy, said the allegations are “outrageous” and in a hastily-held press conference in Kampala, gave police only 24 hours to retract it and apologise.
“It is not true that they raided First Pharmacy, not in Mulago or not at any of our branches.
The police didn’t arrest any of my staff. They didn’t get any Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca vaccine from First Pharmacy, because we don’t have any Covid-19 vaccines anyway,” he said.
At its weekly media briefing in Naguru, a Kampala suburb, Police insisted, without giving evidence, that they raided First Pharmacy, among four health facilities.
Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, said “First Pharmacy held a press conference and denied involvement, but our investigations are still continuing”.
“The allegations are there and it (First Pharmacy) is one of those places where the seven suspects were got. If it is not their staff, investigations will help prove or disprove the allegations against them,” he said.
In a rejoinder, the pharmacy’s managing director said none of the suspects in police custody is their employee. Police did not provide evidence to show the suspects are staff of First Pharmacy.
Mr Yusufu yesterday shared four clips of CCTV footages in which police officers could be seen entering and emerging from a block adjacent to First Pharmacy on the same premises on the turn to Mulago National Referral Hospital main gate.
We could not establish whether the video footage we received was partial and police have not also provided independent evidence to back their allegations implicating First Pharmacy.
It is unclear from which room the officers caught the suspects and whether they will be formally charged since today will be more than 48 hours – the constitutional threshold to arraign a suspect in court – since their arrest.
This newspaper yesterday published a story containing the police allegation and Mr Yusufu, in response, said the unsubstantiated accusations by police was shocking and damaged the reputation of his business built over 15 years.
“We believe it is a matter of wrong identification since we share the compound with some of the raided pharmacies, which have been doing Covid-19 vaccination and issuance of certificates,” he said at the press conference.
Modern Diagnostic Laboratory, another implicated facility on the same premises, was closed yesterday.
Covid-19 jabs, initially shunned by vast majority of Ugandans, gained premium currency following a more devastating wave of the pandemic marked by increasing number of deaths and dramatic rise in infections.
Uganda started Covid-19 vaccination in March after receiving 964,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine from the global sharing initiative -Covax and the Indian government.
As of yesterday, a total of 786,160 people had been vaccinated against Covid-19 across the country, according to the Ministry of Health.
In the story published by Daily Monitor, the Deputy spokesperson of Kampala metropolitan Police Luke Owoyesigyire, said the operation to recover stolen vaccine doses is underway in different parts of the country and that 10 suspects were arrested in Kampala Metropolitan Area.
FIRST PHARMACY STATEMENT ABOUT ALLEGED RAID
“As First Pharmacy, we were taken aback yesterday (on Sunday) after we [heard] the police making serious allegations [during news bulletin] that they had raided our facilities in Mulago and took Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccines.
Kampala Metropolitan Deputy Police Spokesperson, Mr Luke Owoyesigire, was quoted by several media houses, saying that a team of police officers carried out a raid arresting several people and impounded vaccines from several pharmacies, including First Pharmacy.
We want to set the record straight. It is not true that they (police) raided First Pharmacy, not in Mulago or not at any of our branches. The police did not arrest any of my staff. They did not get any Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine from First Pharmacy, because we do not have any Covid-19 vaccines anyway.
First Pharmacy does not in any way deal in Covid-19 vaccine. We distance ourselves from these allegations raised by Mr Owoyesigire. It is very disturbing that police can make such outrageous allegation.
We shall be sharing with you Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage shortly that showed the operation of the police. There were several police officers who came and entered the building right next to ours.
They took computers and laptops and fridges as well arresting several people.When we checked in with police, they said that it was a minor error and misplaced identification. They thought that the building was entirely owned by First Pharmacy, which is not factually true.
If they arrested people from First Pharmacy, they should have asked them for their identification. They should have at least called me for questioning. It is wrong for police for police to get facts wrong. It has [cost] our reputation. We are a professional pharmacy and we take our business seriously.
Mr Ahmed Yusufu, Managing Director,