Uganda to buy 2 million Covid jabs from US firm

A vial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Uganda has concluded a deal to procure two million Covid-19 vaccines from American pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson. Photo / Net

What you need to know:

  • The government has cumulatively set aside Shs41b to buy Covid vaccines, which are being sourced from different countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Cuba, Russia, and China.

Uganda has concluded a deal to procure two million Covid-19 vaccines from American pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson, through the African Union.

Highly-placed sources told this newspaper that the solicitor general cleared the deal last week, paving the way for the actual acquisition of the single-shot jabs.

The government has cumulatively set aside Shs41b to buy Covid vaccines, which are being sourced from different countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Cuba, Russia, and China.

This is in addition to sourcing the vaccines through Covax, a facility set up by the World Health Organisation to ensure that poorer countries can access the life-saving jabs.

Uganda by last Friday had vaccinated only 4.5 per cent of the targeted 21.9 million people since launching nationwide mass vaccination on March 10, official figures show.

The country received the initial 864,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines through Covax and India donated an additional 100,000 jabs.

Speaking last Friday, Health Minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, said: “The Ministry of Health has concluded that initial legal requirements to procure two million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine through the Afri-Exim Bank and African Union. 

Legal requirement to procure nine million doses of vaccines through Covax facility under the cost-sharing framework has [also] been concluded.”

The first batch of Janssen - the Covid vaccines made by the American firm - is expected in the country next month, but full delivery will be spread out until mid-next year, according to senior government officials. 

Uganda is also prospecting the possibility of buying additional jabs from Pfizer, another US drugmaker.

Uganda’s attempt to inoculate 21.9 million of its citizens against the pandemic, which has now killed more than 1,000 people countrywide, has staggered.

Initially, the population shunned the vaccines in March, before a mad rush when infections began spiking toward May. 

The stock was exhausted and an additional 175,200 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines have been shipped in from France, too few to make an impact amid high infection as well as fatality numbers and a second lockdown ravaging lives.

According to the Ministry of Health, a total of 585,600 doses of vaccines are expected this month. Of these 285,600 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca are expected under dose-sharing arrangement through Covax facility and a donation 300,000 doses of Sinovac by the Chinese government.

On Friday, Dr Aceng said the fourth consignment of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Covax facility - some 688,800 doses - is expected next month.

Dr Alfred Driwale, the manager of Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunisation (UNEPI), the choice of priority groups for the next round of vaccinations will depend on how many people are due for the second dose.
Separately, Minister Aceng dismissed claims that some of the fully-vaccinated Ugandans have ended up dead or critically ill with Covid.

Citing a study that is yet to be published, she said only five per cent of those, who had received their first dose of the vaccine were admitted to hospitals. The study conducted in Mulago and Entebbe hospitals between June 15 and 21 sampled 200 patients admitted in the hospitals. 

The ongoing study sought to “understand the effect of Covid-19 vaccination on the outcomes of patients with Covid-19”.  Dr Aceng said only 11 patients (5 per cent) had received the first dose while 189 (95 per cent) were not vaccinated. None of the patients was fully vaccinated. 

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