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Health Workers Cautioned Against Wastage of COVID-19 Vaccine

According to the health ministry, on average vaccines worth Ugx 6.5 billion are wasted annually during routine immunization. However, with a shortage of funds and supply of COVID-19 vaccines, health workers are being advised to open vaccine vials once a minimum of 10 people have registered for vaccination
A health worker charges a syringe with a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine

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The Ministry of Health has asked health workers to avoid vaccine-wastage during the on-going COVID-19 vaccination campaign.  The World Health Organization defines vaccine wastage as the sum of vaccines discarded, lost, damaged, or destroyed during transportation of vaccines or poor storage of vaccines.

With shortages in vaccine supply, officials from the health ministry say Uganda cannot afford any sort of vaccine wastage. As such, health workers are being told not to start vaccination unless they have a minimum of ten people ready to be vaccinated. Each AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine vial contains 10 doses that can be used by ten people.

However once opened, the vaccine remains viable for six hours after which it cannot be used again.   

Dr Alfred Driwale, the programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization says health workers carrying out the vaccinations need to ensure that at any given times, they open a vile after 10 people have registered.  

//Cue in; “In our normal immunization…   

Cue out…two people.”//   

According to the WHO, globally vaccine wastage stands at 50 per cent. However, when it comes to vaccination campaigns where vials hold multiples doses of 10 or more, the UN agency says wastage stands at 14 per cent. As such, Uganda could waste as many as 1.9 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. Annually, the health ministry estimates that the country wastes vaccines equivalent to 6.5 Billion.

However, normally the cost of vaccination is met majorly by donors with the country mainly contributing human workforce to carry out the vaccinations. This time around, with the entire world needing vaccines, the government is going to have to meet over 60 per cent of the vaccination cost.  As such Driwale says a minimum of 15,000 Shillings cannot be wasted through wasted vaccines.

“Right now, it is not a question of having money where vaccines procurement is concerned. The majority of the vaccines were procured by rich countries during the development stage. But for us, we just placed an order recently so we don’t have vaccines to waste. Health care workers should schedule vaccinations to avoid any sort of wastage,” Driwale said. 

WHO recommends well-planned campaigns to avoid wastage. They say in cases where vaccines are scarce, it is important to have other people on standby to receive the vaccines in case targeted audiences do not show up.

Uganda received 964,000 vaccine donations and has since embarked on a vaccination campaign aimed at vaccinating 22 million eligible Ugandans. Vaccination started last week with health workers. Security officers and teachers will follow.   

According to the health ministry, over 1,200 people have been vaccinated since the launch last week using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.