About reintroducing mandatory vaccination

Author: Agnes K. Namaganda 
 

What you need to know:

  • Public health policies should be made in consultation with the communities where they are to be implemented

Towards the end of 2021, the Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, tabled the Public Health Amendment Bill before Parliament. One of the contentious clauses in this Bill was a proposal to make vaccination against infectious diseases mandatory, as and when the minister of Health deems it fit.

Unequivocally, the mandatory vaccination clause was rejected by the 8th Parliament.

A few months down the road, President Museveni, on December 2, made several directives on Covid-19 vaccinations. Requirements include a certificate of vaccination with evidence of up-to-date boosting to access formal meetings and public places like government ministries, departments and agencies. Churches are also included. Where there is no up-to-date vaccination certificate, a negative PCR test done within 24 hours is required.

With these requirements, it is clear that the President is silently mandating Covid-19 vaccination. Why for example, does he call for a PCR test which is about $100, every 24 hours? How many Ugandans can afford this amount? The fee is synonymous to a fine for those that choose not to vaccinate.

By doggedly seeking to circumvent the decision of lawmakers regarding mandatory vaccination without addressing concerns raised, these presidential directives are dubious. Case in point is Hon Connie Galiwango who on the floor of Parliament during the debate about this Bill mentioned some of her constituents who died after Covid-19 vaccination. What has the Ministry of Health done to investigate these claims and publicly address them? There was a 14-year-old boy who was vaccinated against Covid-19 without the consent of his parents and he apparently got multiple organ failure, which later led to his death. The Ministry of Health promised to investigate these claims but no report has been given since. There is likely so many other cases of people who never have the opportunity of bringing their pain to the fore.

Ideally, the nation should also have a functional Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System (VAERS) where cases of injury should be reported and dutifully attended to. The Ugandan version is called the Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) reporting system which is non-functional. With every advert on any vaccination, routine or otherwise, citizens should be informed about where they can report in case they experience any side effects.

This system needs to have a respective compensation plan for victims once it is proven that the vaccination led to injury or death. This is what the developed countries we are trying to benchmark do, to encourage vaccine uptake.

Just recently, the UK moved to compensate all documented cases of injury and death due to the Covid1-9 vaccine.

So, if the President seeks to present himself as someone who cares about the wellbeing of the citizenry regarding contracting, suffering, or dying of Covid-19, he should first address cases of those that have previously complied with such directives and have instead lost their lives or suffered Covid-19 vaccine-induced injuries. He should also make certain that the country has a functional AEFI system and a compensation plan for those that suffer injuries/death after vaccination, Covid-19 inclusive.

It is also quite confusing as to why the President would push for vaccinations yet future Covid-19 strains are likely to be different variants. We know that vaccines are variant-specific and a vaccine can only be manufactured after the variant has manifested. Most importantly, the vaccinated and unvaccinated can similarly contract, spread and suffer nearly the same complications including death, from Covid-19. Our President has proven to be a brilliant well-read man who possibly knows all this. He also most likely knows about the numerous sudden deaths due to myocarditis amongst relatively young people that have been taking place world over, among the Covid-19 vaccinated.

To avoid such deaths, the President should instead be looking at promoting proven local Covid-19 remedies like Covidex. We can also look into completing our own vaccine manufacturing plants because imported vaccines are also a huge financial burden on the country.

It has been proven that effective public health policies should be made in consultation with the communities where they are to be implemented. Otherwise, they become coercive and draconian, with unintended consequences like forging of Covid-19 vaccination certificates.

The Parliament, which initially rejected mandatory vaccination, again needs to rise up and reject these illegitimate and unscientific presidential directives.

 Ms Agnes Namaganda is a human rights’ activist.

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