Uganda to miss WHO 40% target of vaccinated adults

A woman receives Astrazeneca Covid-19 jab during the launch of the mass vaccination campaign at Mulago Women’s Specialised Hospital in Kampala on March 10, 2020. PHOTO/FILE    

What you need to know:

  • Authorities say Uganda will not hit the set target because the rate of current vaccine uptake is not optimal.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says only five countries in Africa, Uganda excluded, are projected to hit the target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of their adult population by end of December. 
Prof David Serwadda, the head government vaccine advisory committee, told this newspaper yesterday that the country will not hit the set target because the rate of current vaccine uptake is not optimal.  

“The number of doses is not the limiting factor. But more still needs to be done by local governments in mobilising the population for vaccination. The resources for vaccination are limited to cover the logistics for rolling out the vaccination,” he said. 
Prof Serwadda said: “The President should step to the centre stage to ensure there is enough resources and people are mobilised for vaccination.”

But Uganda’s Ministry of Health says they have introduced many creative approaches, including unique outreaches, to make sure it hits the WHO target.
But only 1.2 million, representing five percent of the targeted 22 million Ugandan adult population, have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to latest government statistics. 
Achieving the 40 percent vaccination target would essentially end the acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic, according to WHO. 
“Three African countries, Seychelles, Mauritius and Morocco, have already met the goal that was set in May by the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body. At the current pace just two more countries, Tunisia and Cabo Verde, will also hit the target,” WHO said earlier in a statement. 

Although many countries had in the past struggled to access vaccines, WHO said in a statement in October that limited access to crucial commodities such as syringes may slow the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in Africa.
Dr Henry Kajumbula, the head of Infection Control and Prevention at Ministry of Health Scientific Advisory Committee, told this newspaper that Uganda now has sufficient vaccines but the problem is vaccine hesitancy. 

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, said on Thursday that 6.9 million doses have been administered out of 17 million doses the country has acquired through direct procurement and donations. 
Up to 10,523,853 doses have been distributed countrywide and the rest, 6.6 million doses are yet to be distributed, according to the minister. She said 5,767,857 (25 percent) have received their first dose, while 1,205,161 (5 percent) have received second dose. 
The five percent full vaccination since March this year, means the country has so far fully vaccinated 0.6 percent of its targeted population per month. At this rate, the country may need at least 58 months (about 5 years) to fully vaccinate 40 percent of the targeted population. 
Health experts say the uptake was low at the start of the vaccination campaign because of limited access to vaccines. But they say this has since improved significantly.  
For instance, in the middle of October, only around 600,000 people were fully vaccinated but by December 2 (in the last 45 days), the number had doubled to 1.2 million.

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the spokesperson of the Health ministry, told this newspaper yesterday that they are hopeful Uganda will hit the WHO target. “With these regional campaigns we are doing to get close to people, we hope to hit the target,” he said. 
 Dr Aceng explained on Thursday that in order to increase uptake, the ministry has expanded the vaccination activity from only static sites in health facilities to include outreaches in the communities. 
“Therefore, against this background, the Ministry of Health commenced an accelerated mass vaccination campaign starting with the regions with high Covid-19 infection rates. The campaign has so far covered Teso, Lango, Kigezi and Acholi sub-regions,” she said. 

President Museveni said earlier that full reopening of  both schools and the economy will happen in January 2021 after vaccinating at least 7 million people.  “Even if you don’t come out for vaccination, we will open the schools and the economy. If anything goes wrong, the moral responsibility is yours,” President Museveni said. 


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