What you need to know:
- In April, The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is still effective three months after the expiry date. Dr Yonas Woldemariam, the WHO country representative, said research has shown that the vaccine has more lifespan.
The Ministry of Health has asked all districts countrywide to return all Covid-19 doses that have not been utilised.
The ministry’s permanent secretary, Dr Diana Atwiine, said the move is to ensure the vaccines are utilised by other groups of people before they expire in July.
“We brought 964,000 vaccines, we rolled out on March 10 to all the districts but we see some districts are having very slow uptake and we shall not allow vaccines to expire in some of the districts,” Dr Atwiine said.
She added: “Therefore, the Ministry of Health together with our advisors, the scientific committee, and entire team made a decision that any district that will not have used the vaccines by May 30, those vaccines should be recalled and be put to use where there are people in need.”
Dr Atwiine was addressing political and religious leaders, and civil servants in the districts of greater Mbarara in Mbarara City on Friday about the enhancement of health promotion in the area.
She decried slow uptake of the vaccine yet the country is already experiencing the second wave of Covid-19.
“You find in some areas the demand is very high; they have finished the doses and they have asked for more yet for others, the first batch we took has not yet fully ben utilised it. So we shall recall the vaccine that will not have been used by the end of this month,” said Dr Atwiine
She urged all health workers in the affected districts to use all possible ways to ensure that people get vaccinated such as visiting churches and mosques to sensitise people.
Dr Atwiine also expressed concern about laxity in the fight against Covid-19 despite the upsurge in cases over the last month. “Unfortunately in the presence of the vaccine, people are relaxed. They think the problem is very far away, it will not come to them soon. The fear of Covid has gone down. That is why we are seeing people congregating in funerals, weddings like nothing is happening,” she said.
The deputy chief administrative officer for Kiruhura District, Mr Nicolas Kamukama, pleaded with the ministry to give them more time to vaccinate people.
“Please do not take back our vaccine because we have not been having proper communication on the uptake but what I can confirm is that we received 2,500 doses and we have so far administered 1,624 doses, so we are going to sensitise the teams so that we can utilise the jabs,” he said.
The Ibanda District Health Officer, Mr Julius Bamwine, said the districts face the problem of data entry, which reflects different figures on the vaccine uptake.
Uganda received 964,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the Covax global sharing initiative and a donation from the Indian government in March. However, the uptake of the vaccine has been low.