The virus is surging. We are at 317 dead. Ugandans are dying and getting infected each day. Some hospitals are now full and the few health workers are strained. Some self-isolated at home, treating themselves with local herbs and all sorts of concoctions. They are on their own.
The cumulative confirmed Covid-19 cases stood at 38,935 on Friday. But the numbers could even be higher on account of non-adherence to SOPs in just concluded presidential campaigns. The internet shutdown last week also affected testing and relaying of results in some ways.
Regrettably, Ministry of Health officials and other stakeholders have not taken Covid-19 vaccines seriously. In December, they acknowledged urgent need to access the Covid-19 vaccine for the people of Uganda, not only as a mitigating strategy against severe disease and deaths but also a public health measure to enable a safe return to normalcy.
The government has since promised to import some vaccines into the country by May or June. They also indicated that access of the vaccine will be done in an equitable manner starting with the most vulnerable and those at more risk. But they have not given any evidence on the planned procurement of the vaccines. There are no updates.
Other African countries like Egypt have already imported Covid-19 vaccines for their citizens. South Africa has finalised plans to import 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to inoculate the country’s health workers. The first one million doses will be delivered later this month from the Serum Institute of India, followed by an additional 500,000 doses in next month.
There are reports that Ministry of Health applied for nine million dozes of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine through humanitarian Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation to cover 20 per cent of the population. There is also another promise to import more doses to cover up to 60 per cent of the population but the details were not disclosed. It’s also not clear whether the money is in the budget or not.
Our view is that lip service in the fight against Covid-19 must stop. Ugandans need vaccines before schools open for all classes. Our country has reached a critical stage in the battle against Covid-19. It’s suspected that the number of people dying on a daily basis is far more than those that are being officially recorded.
There even more unknown Covid-19 deaths happening in the community before reaching the health centres. Ministry of Health officials should account for every penny received and presented a supplementary budget for Covid-19 vaccines. They must present evidence for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, the number of doses and the budget details. Our view is that Parliament should not pass the 2021/2022 Budget without money for vaccines.