What you need to know:
- Dr Kaducu said vaccinating the age bracket had not been made compulsory as the ministries of Education and Health were still holding discussions about the issue.
First Lady Janet Museveni has advised the Ministry of Health to make Covid-19 vaccination for children below 18 years optional.
Responding to questions raised during a press conference at State House Nakasero on Wednesday, Ms Museveni, who is also the Education and Sports minister, said the decision of vaccinating children against Covid-19 should be left to parents.
“When parents feel free to take their children for vaccination, they [will] do it. If they don’t want to, nobody will force them. It is not compulsory. I do not know where you got that information that is was compulsory,” she said.
However, the State Minister for Education in charge of Primary Education, Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, who was also present, informed the First Lady that the Ministry of Health had a discussion and press statements weeks ago, saying they were planning to vaccinate all children between the ages of five and 17 against Covid .
Dr Kaducu said vaccinating the age bracket had not been made compulsory as the ministries of Education and Health were still holding discussions about the issue.
“I think this is not compulsory as you have said. It is something that we are still discussing with the Ministry of Health. For vaccination, you have to consent as an adult and for children, the parent has to. Certainly, parents will be key stakeholders as far as vaccination their children is concerned,” she said.
A cross section of health experts have urged government to go slow on vaccinating children to avoid grave effects that the vaccines might have on their health.
A research scientist at Makerere University, Dr Clara Zoe, urged the ministry to first carry out a thorough benefit-effect analysis on the vaccines to guide it in making an informed decision.
Dr Zoe said the overall Covid statistics indicate that children are least likely to suffer from severe Covid, and when they do, the cure rate is as high as 99.9 percent.
She attributed this to the inbuilt natural immunity in children, which she said far outweighs the vaccine-induced one. The ministry recently announced that it would commence the vaccination drive for children in August.
A former lecturer at the College of Health Sciences, Dr Eva Mugisha, dismissed reports that Covid vaccines block transmission and infection of the virus.
“Scientifically, Centre for Diseases Control and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are calling on countries to give people a booster dose. The epidemiological information shows that people who are vaccinated carry a higher viral load and contribute to infection,” Dr Mugisha said.
However, the deputy programme manager for Uganda Expanded Program on Immunisation in the Ministry of Health, Dr Immaculate Ampeire, said all vaccines and drugs have side effects, but added that Covid ones are safe and effective.
Dr Ampeire said those claiming that the effects of the vaccines outweigh benefits should read the available literature, including WHO’s emerging evidence on risk benefit analysis on vaccination or no vaccination of children.
She said a recent sero-survey indicates that the Covid risk prevalence in children is not different from that of the adults, except the risk of death.
On the issue of Covid transmission in the general population, Ms Museveni said although the infection rate has reduced, people should still take care of themselves because Uganda has not yet been declared Covid- free.
Ms Museveni said her ministry would embark on the review of the guidelines that were used to reopen the schools and make necessary adjustments in keeping with the status of Covid-19 in the country, and advice from the Ministry of Health.