If government doesn’t vaccinate Ugandans, the pandemic will continue. According to the Minister for Health, Dr Ruth Acheing, “we are not responding to the pandemic at the speed that we should”, wealthy countries are hoarding the vaccines and yet because of its global impact, Covid-19 ideally should be treated on a global response other than single-nation response. If countries do not start sharing the excess supply that is available, the pandemic will continue and will come with new variants.
COVAX an international consortium co-led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, along with its partners, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. The COVAX facility is an initiative that provides developing nations with access to vaccines. It is expected to cover only 10 per cent of the population, with essential workers as first priority. Therefore, developing countries have to find alternative sources for the vaccines in order to continue the drive to herd immunity.
In March 2021, 864,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Uganda. Amidst many challenges in Uganda, the task under the COVAX team was to vaccinate essential workers across Uganda. The doses were enough to vaccinate 425,000 people, which is under one per cent of the population. Uganda still needs millions of doses to hit the target of vaccinating the majority of its population and that is where our efforts as a country should be concerted for the next months to have herd immunity for the pandemic to be brought under control.
As a country, we need to rally our efforts around vaccination. While other nations are going back to life as normal, for us we are in our houses hiding from the virus. The world is certainly moving on and leaving us in a pandemic that was not our making and all of a sudden, it feels like the HIV/Aids era yet again. We can do something about it so that we can achieve at least 70 per cent vaccination levels for life to go back to normal.
The pandemic is quickly becoming an African problem, not just at a national level but even globally. Africa is quickly being sunk into a corner where we will be fighting this pandemic in isolation, travel bans will remove us from the global connectivity and yet again stay at the mercy of countries whose medicine has advanced enough for them to produce more than enough vaccines for their citizens.
With the allegation of Ugandans getting water instead of the actual vaccine, fears grow for our population as to when we will be able to get genuine vaccines so that we can leverage our immunity and health in the presence of the pandemic. We need to objectively look for solutions that will ensure that life can go on and Ugandans can go back to working and building the economy. Otherwise, we risk losing more Ugandans to the corona virus and also crippling the economy with total business shutdowns while using lockdowns as the remedial measure other than mass vaccination.
The author, Tricia Gloria Nabaye, is a Resident Research Associate: Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies