Expired Covid vaccines: We need a new strategy

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Expired vaccines. 
  • Our view: We have argued before that Uganda’s success in the fight against the HIV/ Aids epidemic was largely due to the packaging, messaging and consistency.

The Ministry of Health has announced that it is to destroy 400,000 doses of expired Covid-19 vaccines, which had been dispatched to northern Uganda but were not used because of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy.

Months before Health minister Jane Ruth Aceng made the revelation, her junior colleague, Ms Margaret Muhanga, had revealed that government was working the possibility of introducing vaccination drives in northern Uganda and the Teso sub-region to help boost vaccine uptake.

That so many vaccines meant for an area that had been targeted for vaccine drives are to be destroyed can only mean one of four things. Scenario number one is that the proposed vaccination drives were “just talk” on the part of the minister. It would not be surprising.

Scenario two is that a programme was made, an implementation plan developed, budgets drawn and funds for the drive released, but the drives were never implemented. Those who have read about the abuse of funds meant for the fight against the spread of Covid-19 would not be surprised.

Scenario three is that such vaccination drives were carried out, but came too little too late and the packaging was not good enough to elicit the desired impact.

Whatever the case was, the expiration of 400,000 vaccines at a time when only four million people, or 18.2 per cent of the targeted 22 million people, have been vaccinated should serve to show that this is not simply about vaccine hesitancy. 

This should hammer home the urgent need for the Ministry of Health to carry out an honest evaluation of the vaccination campaign.

The ministry has previously blamed low vaccine uptake on limited vaccination outlets across the country; limited numbers of health workers to administer the vaccines and; the decision by priority groups like health workers, security personnel, teachers, non-teaching staff and citizens above the age of 50 to shun the vaccine.

That should have served to show that there was something fundamental wrong with the strategy that it came up with to drive the vaccination campaign. If there is hesitancy, it must be because the messaging is neither right, nor consistent.

We have argued before that Uganda’s success in the fight against the HIV/ Aids epidemic was largely due to the packaging, messaging and consistency.

The ministry does not need to reinvent the wheel. It simply has to look at how the fight and messaging around fight against HIV/ Aids were done. That should inform messaging that will bring Ugandans out to take the jab.

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