How Uganda, neighbours compare in jabs for Covid

People line up to receive Covid-19 jabs in Nakawa, Kampala, during a mass vaccination drive in May. PHOTO/FILE 

What you need to know:

  • The rollout of Covid-19 vaccines across Africa has been marred by postponements, scarcity of vaccines, and the problem of prioritising recipients. Most African countries are waiting for more deliveries of doses as some more grapple with spikes in caseloads and are overwhelmed health systems, Derrick Kiyonga writes.

In June, Uganda ran out of vaccines, yet when president Museveni was lifting the 42-day lockdown, he had made it clear that reopening the economy fully hinged on vaccinating about 20 million Ugandans, with teachers now being prioritised in an effort to quickly reopen schools that have remained shut for more than a year now.   

To date, the Health ministry has administered only about 1.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, meaning only about 1.7 million of the county’s 42 million population is inoculated.    

It was recently revealed that Uganda is set to buy more seven million doses of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine, besides the two million doses earlier ordered.

Uganda has largely depended on donations from Covax, India and Norway to inoculate its population that was hit hard by the second wave in May, with deaths now totalling more than 2,900.   

President Museveni, in July, said the country next month expects to receive more 647,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine from the US, another 688,000 of AstraZeneca vaccine from Covax, and 299,000 doses from the United Kingdom, all donations. 
This will total 1,634,000 doses of vaccines, which will cater for more 817,000 people at full dose.

Ethiopia laid out plans in February to vaccinate 20 per cent of its population against Covid-19 by the end of this year.  
But by August 23, Ethiopia, with a population of 112.1 million people, had administered only 2.32 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines - the highest number in Greater eastern Africa, according to Reuters.

Reuters also reports that in March, the country kicked off its immunisation campaign when it received 2.184 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from the Covax facility.

The country has registered more than 2,200,000 infections and 4,500 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began in early 2020. 

Kenya was so far the second most vaccinated country in East Africa, going by an August BBC report.

Reuters also reports that the country has so far administered more than 2,300,000 vaccine doses, with more than 1.5 million people getting the first dose. Kenya recently reported how it got 880,000 doses of Moderna vaccine from the US via the Covax facility.

The US listed Kenya among recipient nations of its 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses to be delivered this month. In June, Kenya received a donation of 407,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the UK. 

Rwanda has so far administered about 1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, but its target is to vaccinate 30 per cent of its 12.63 million population by the end of the year, and 60 per cent by the end of 2022, according to the Reuters.

Just like many other African countries, Rwanda got the first batch of vaccines in early March from the Covax facility, with 342,960 of the vaccines Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. The country also received 50,000 donated doses from India in March, Reuters reports.

Having earlier targeted frontline workers and the elderly, Rwanda on Tuesday announced the third phase of mass Covid-19 vaccinations targeting adults 18 years and above in Kigali, its capital, which has so far seen three lockdowns ever since contagion started spreading last year.

Rwanda has chronicled more than 83,000 Covid-19 cases and more than 1,000 fatalities since the outbreak of the virus.

Tanzania started its Covid-19 vaccine rollout in July after the new president, Ms Samia Suluhu, broke ranks with her predecessor John Magufuli, a protuberant coronavirus doubter, who died in March.

Magufuli, who touted the use of herbs and steam inhalation, did not believe in vaccines, and Tanzania did not sign up for vaccination campaigns as many African countries did.

Having taken over the mantle in May, President Suluhu didn’t just form a Covid-19 taskforce, but also advised that the virus’s presence should be publicly documented, and that Tanzania should join the global vaccine-sharing programme Covax.

As of this month, the authorities in Tanzania say they have vaccinated only 105,745, and more 164,500 have been scheduled to take the jab, with many people reported to be sceptical about the exercise due to deep-rooted religious convictions, according to the BBC.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country, by July, had given the first dose to only around 2 million people yet it has a population of about 200 million people. Just about 700,000 having received a second jab. As of this week, Nigeria had 188,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 2,276 deaths.

With about 115,100 cases and 974 deaths by press time, Ghana, according to Reuters, in February became the first country globally to receive a vaccine shipment from the Covax facility – a global initiative that is trying to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines – when 600,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses were delivered.
In addition, the West African nation also received a total of about 360,000 doses from India and telecom giant MTN as gifts, according to Reuters.

Ghana’s preliminary plan, according to the BBC, is to vaccinate 20 million residents, about two-thirds of the population, by the end of October, but by June 30, 2,021 doses had been administered.

South Africa
Due to an upsurge in Covid-19 cases, South Africa last month was put on what is dubbed as ‘level 4 lockdown’ under which evening curfew remains in place from 9pm to 4am, among other measures.

At the end of July, the authorities relaxed the restrictions.
The country, which is Africa’s second-biggest economy, has more than 200,000 active Covid-19 cases, with official data putting the death toll at more than 70,000, according to Reuters.   

South Africa, which has a population of about 60 million people, accounts for more than 35 per cent of the 5.8 million cases recorded by Africa’s 54 countries. However, like other African countries, the vaccination rollout here has been painfully slow, with approximately 10 million South Africans having received at least one dose and about 4.5 million fully vaccinated, according to the Guardian.

The country received a million doses of AstraZeneca back in February, but as the government was starting the process of inoculating front-line workers, the process was halted after a minor study showed that this particular vaccine wasn’t effective against the beta variant of the virus, which was spreading like a wildfire in the country at the time.  

AstraZeneca was dumped for the American Johnson & Johnson (J&J), with Aspen South African Pharmaceutical firm being given patent rights by J &J to produce using large consignments of materials dispatched from the US.

However, as soon as the initial two million J&J doses manufactured by Aspen were about to reignite the country’s crackling inoculation drive, the US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates drugs, out of the blue asked for a pause in the distribution of J&J, over concerns that the vaccine causes rare blood clot.  The interruption was short-lived, but South African had no choice but to discard its million doses on grounds that they had been contaminated at the US factory which had made them.

Recently there has been positive news as large shipments of about 40 million US-made Pfizer doses arrived, J&J has ramped up its production and more vaccination centres have been opened across the country.


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