Ugandans protest Covid jab gift to Ham

Wednesday July 21 2021
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A woman receives the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine jab during the launch of the mass vaccination at Mulago Women’s Specialised Hospital on March 10. PHOTO/FILE

By Tonny Abet

Ugandans have protested a move by government to gift city businessman, Hamis Kiggundu, thousands of doses of the scarce Covid-19 vaccines to immunise his workers and tenants.
This comes after  Daily Monitor on Monday  published a story exposing  how government gave out 2,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the businessman, roughly two weeks after he donated Shs530 million towards the government’s Covid-19 response. 
But Mr Kiggundu said only 1,200 of his people were vaccinated using the jabs.
The deal between Mr Kiggundu and the Ministry of Health comes at a time when many designated vaccination centres are out of vaccine stock.

 By last Thursday, of the 1,085,382 people vaccinated countrywide only 23 per cent had received their full doses while   879,672 had only received one dose which renders their immunity against the virus less effective.
The  total number of people vaccinated is far below the ministry’s plan of vaccinating 21.9 million people.
President Museveni has in multiple televised addresses said Uganda, currently in a second lockdown, would fully reopen only when at least 4.4m Ugandans are vaccinated.
 Among these include teachers and health workers who still need to keep their government jobs. 

With only 1,085,382 people vaccinated, this  means the Ministry of Health has only hit 24 per cent of the target.
On June 18, while announcing a 42-day nationwide lockdown,  Mr Museveni directed the Ministry of Health to prioritise the second batch of donated 175,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for those  getting their second dose.
But information Daily Monitor has received  and testimonies from recipients of vaccines administered at Ham’s building in Kampala, many people were getting their first jab. 
The  Ministry of Health has not yet  made public the details of Mr Kiggundu’s people who were vaccinated by health workers from the Ministry.

Statistics
According to statistics from the ministry, government has so far vaccinated  141,425 security personnel of the  targeted 250,000. This means up to 44 per cent have not yet been vaccinated. But of those inoculated, only 29,823 (21 per cent) are fully vaccinated (received two doses).
The other vaccine doses were given to local governments and have been used to vaccinate 943,957 people. The local government is supposed to vaccinate health workers (target 150,000), teachers and social workers (550,000), people who are 50 years and above (3.3 million and those with underlying health conditions (at least 500,000) which total to about 4.4 million. 
The ministry didn’t give a clear breakdown on how the vaccines were used.

Ms Rita Nabbanja, a resident of Kampala,  said it was absurd that while the ministry was vaccinating Ham’s workers, she went to a designated vaccination centre the same week for her second shot only to be told there was no vaccine.
“But there was no vaccine in hospitals. Last week, I walked to get my second jab only to find out that it is not available,” she said.
Ms Nabbanja’s experience is not any different from Ms Emily Nagasha’s relative and another man who identified himself as Josiah.
Ms Nagasha, also a resident of Kampala, said  the claim by the ministry that they engaged Ham because people were not coming to take the jabs is a total lie.

“This is a pure lie, my cousin sister went to Kitante to get vaccinated and she was told that they are not vaccinating because the vaccine was finished [and] that she was to get at the beginning of this month,” she said.
Kitante Primary School was one of the centres designated by Kampala Capital City Authority to bring vaccination closer to people.
Another tweep who identified himself as Josiah said: “ I went to Kira Health Centre IV on day two [June 29] of the vaccination exercise during this current lockdown only to be told the vaccines were used up on day one of the exercise.” 

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The government reportedly started vaccinating Ham’s people last Tuesday (July 13) which is about 14 days after Josiah failed to access the jab.
These testimonies sharply contrast an earlier pronouncement by Dr Alfred Driwale, the head of immunisation programme at Ministry of Health, that Kampala Capital City Authority had reported that it couldn’t exhaust the 56,000 doses of vaccines within one week. 
Dr Driwale said they engaged Ham because of the report from KCCA.

The reason for rushing to exhaust the vaccines is still unclear because health officials said it has nothing to do with the expiry date of the jabs which were received by government in the middle of June this year. Some districts such as Amuru and Wakiso say they still have some doses for health workers.
Dr Daniel Okello, the head of public health services at KCCA, couldn’t be reached for comments on the pronouncement by Dr Driwale. 

Dr Okello answer pick the repeated phone calls.
However, the seemingly excited Mr Ahmed Bogere Masembe, a resident of Kampala, revealed yesterday he was among the people who “were lucky” to get the first shot.
“I got my first jab at Ham Shopping Mall. Ministry of Health should make such more arrangements. They are beneficial to most of us who have been finding it hard to trace vaccination points. This was so organised. Long live Hamis Kiggundu and keep up the acts of kindness,” he said in a tweet yesterday. 
However, Bogere  didn’t specify  whether he works for Ham or he is a tenant.

Other areas
Outside Kampala,  Mr Patrick Odong, the  Amuru District Health Officer, one of the districts hit hard by Covid-19, said many vulnerable people who are due for the second dose couldn’t be vaccinated. 

He said this was because they received only 320 doses of vaccines from the second batch unlike in the first batch where the district was given 3,000 doses.
Dr Driwale, the head of immunisation programme at Ministry of Health, said the vaccination at Ham’s building was open to everyone, but one of our reporters, who tried to access the vaccination point last week, said he was blocked and that they said the centre could only accessed by specific people.

Dr Driwale was also not specific on whether the vaccines were only administered to those who are due for the second shot.
“But the guideline is clear that vaccines should be given to those who are due for second dose. But if someone is in the prioritised category, I have not been told they are being sent away. The health workers at the frontline should use judgement,” he told this newspaper.

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