Govt stuck with elders, now to vaccinate children

Students wash hands after break time at Kisubi Mapeera Senior Secondary School in Entebbe on October 12, 2020. PHOTO / DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • This plan is coming roughly six months after the ministry first okayed Covid-19 vaccination of children between aged 12 and 17 years in October last year. However, it was restricted to only those with underlying health conditions such as sickle cell, asthma and cancer.

Officials at the Ministry of Health have said plans are underway to start vaccinating all children aged between 12 and 17 against Covid-19 to contain the pandemic.

The officials told this newspaper yesterday that the primary aim of the renewed drive is to cut transmission and infections as opposed to fighting severe illness among the youngsters. But some parents and vaccine sceptics indicated that they are totally against the development.

This plan is coming roughly six months after the ministry first okayed Covid-19 vaccination of children between aged 12 and 17 years in October last year. However, it was restricted to only those with underlying health conditions such as sickle cell, asthma and cancer.

Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, the director of public health at the ministry, who is coordinating the Covid-19 vaccination, said the vaccination of children against Covid-19 will start between May and August. 

“The month of May may be the preferred time once the second school term starts. The preparation takes some time and planning depends on the vaccines available. Long term [plan is to start in] August, the short term [plan is to start it] late May or June,” he said yesterday.

The move by the government to vaccinate children also comes at the backdrop of a sharp decline in new cases of Covid-19 infections, which partly caused low uptake of the virus vaccines even as the government races to exhaust the jabs before they expire.

For instance, in the last seven days, the ministry has on average been reporting 24 new cases of Covid-19 per day, a sharp decline when compared with 1,936 cases reported in a single day on December 31, 2021.

Since the vaccination exercise started in March 2021, a total of 18.4 million doses have been administered out of the 42 million doses of vaccines received.  This means less than half of acquired doses have been utilised amid a report that substantial vaccines have May as expiry day.

Prof David Serwadda, the head of the government vaccine advisory committee, said they prioritised adults in the initial campaign because vaccines were scarce.

“We are going to start vaccinating that age group [12-17 years] around the middle of this year. The faster line of attack has been to get the older population vaccinated and like many other countries, then we work on children,” he said, adding: “We will be using Pfizer which has been approved for use in children.”

The government has so far acquired 11.7 million doses of Pfizer, but the ministry couldn’t provide the exact number of doses that are remaining since some have been utilised.

The expert admitted that it is true that children don’t have severe effects of Covid-19.

“But they are equally infected and probably the transmission rate of Covid-19 among themselves is very high. So, the aim here is not so much to protect the kids from severe disease but to reduce infection and transmission to the older population,” he said.


1.2m Covid jabs administered in last 12 days

 Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that a total of 1.2 million doses were administered in the last twelve days (March 15 to 26) when mass Covid-19 vaccination was revived.

This number of administered jabs indicate a 58 percent increase when compared to 500,000 doses administered in the previous 12 days stretching from March 3 to March 14 –before the mass vaccination started.

The information is coming at a time when the ministry is racing to exhaust 23.6million doses of vaccines at hand before expiry. A substantial number of vaccines will expire by May, according to information from the Ministry.

Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, the director of public health services at the Ministry, said the mass vaccination is “still ongoing” to give people chance to access the life-saving jabs. He said previously that it would run from March 15 to March 24.

The mass vaccination is taking place in Acholi, Ankole, Bunyoro, Karamoja, Kigezi, and Tooro sub-regions. Vaccination is also going on in health facilities all over the country.

The government plans to inoculate at least 22 million people.

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