Uganda: Ugandans Throng Vaccine Centres After Covid-19 Delta Variant Scare thumbnail

Uganda: Ugandans Throng Vaccine Centres After Covid-19 Delta Variant Scare

On a rainy Monday morning, 58-year-old Annet Nalubwama stood in a long queue at the Mukono district grounds waiting to take her first Covid-19 jab.

By 8am, the time the vaccination exercise was to start, hundreds of people had filled up the grounds during a morning drizzle after government announced it was rolling out a third Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

Ms Nalubwama, who had three months earlier lost a sister to Covid-19, had decided to take the jab after pressure from her daughters.

“I didn’t want to take the vaccine but I want me and my family to be safe, we want our normal life back and if vaccination is what it takes, then we have to do it,” she said.

Ms Nalubwama is just one of the thousands of Ugandans across the country who have for two weeks now thronged Covid-19 vaccination centres to get inoculated as uncertainty continues to hover around when the country would secure enough vaccine doses coupled with lockdown fatigue.

About 15km away in Kampala at Mutungo Parents vaccination centre, hundreds of people queued and sat on benches waiting to be attended to by health officials.

Joel Mukisa, 32, had arrived earlier than the stipulated time of vaccination. It was his second try in as many days.

“When you are early, there is better chance of getting vaccinated. I was here by 6.30am only to find so many others that came earlier than me,” he said.

The scenes in both Mukono and Kampala were replicated across the country.

Lockdown fatigue

The current vaccination campaign comes against the backdrop of a vicious second wave, mainly the Delta variant that sent the country into a second 42-day total lockdown, distorted livelihoods and further battered the economy.

By last Thursday, Uganda’s cumulative number of coronavirus cases stood at 123,445 and 3,152 deaths.

According to health officials, the higher turn up for the vaccination could have been caused by lockdown fatigue, effects of the past deadly wave and continued sensitisation.

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Ministry of Health spokesperson told The EastAfrican that the demand for vaccination was high because of the availability of a sizable number of doses of different types.

“Several people had stayed away because they were waiting to take a particular vaccine for example Pfizer. Now that these vaccines types are available, people are coming to get vaccinated,” Mr Ainebyoona said.

Approved vaccines

The National Drug Authority has already approved six vaccines for emergency use. The approved vaccines are AstraZeneca, Janssen, Pfizer/BionTech, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Sputnik V, Sputnik Lite and Moderna.

So far, Uganda has received donations of the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines.

The Minister of State for Primary Health Care Margaret Muhanga said 5,129,763 doses of several vaccine types have so far been received through donations of which 2,200,321 doses have been utilised.

The reliance on donations has left questions on what happens when the current numbers of people thronging vaccination centres depletes the few doses left before more come in.

Moreover, the reopening of schools targets vaccination of learners which could raise the number jabbed to five million people, which is a far cry from the targeted 22 million people.

For this financial year, government allocated about $2 million to the National Medical Stores (NMS) for the purchase of vaccines.

According to NMS, the money has already been used to book more vaccines that will soon be in the country although no date has been given yet.

The country has placed an order of nine million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines through the Covax facility. It has also placed an order of two million Johnson & Johnson vaccines through the African Union with a down payment of $3 million.

Ainebyoona said the first batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines containing 196,800 doses will arrive this week.

The availability of this particular vaccine favourable for children will be instrumental in determining when schools shall open.

In several of his speeches to the nation, President Yoweri Museveni has pointed out that for the case of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, priority will be given to pupils and students whose academic calendar has already been disrupted for two years now.