Prof Freddie Ssengooba, a Public Health Policy Expert-based at Makerere University told URN in an interview today, that the end of February could be too soon, basing on the conditions that the World Health Organisation gave countries to fulfil to be able to access vaccines through the COVAX facility.
Public Health experts have
cautioned that it may not be possible for Uganda to receive its initial doses
of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month and start vaccinating people in
March, as earlier stated by President Yoweri Museveni.
Through the COVAX facility,
Uganda has tentatively been allocated 3,552,000 doses of the AstraZeneca
vaccine whereby 35 per cent will be availed to the country in the first quarter
and the rest in the second quarter. But all this depends on not just the
country’s readiness but the time taken to submit the shipment plan and the
availability of doses by the suppliers.
Prof Freddie Ssengooba, a Public
Health Policy Expert-based at Makerere University told URN in an interview
today, that the end of February could be too soon, basing on the conditions
that the World Health Organisation gave countries to fulfil to be able to
access vaccines through the COVAX facility.
Ssengooba who is also a
scientific advisor to the Ministry of Health says COVAX didn’t give a specific
date or month of delivery as some of the terms of engagement are still being
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Speaking about the same issues at
a seminar organized by the Makerere University School of Public Health, this afternoon,
Dr Annet Kisakye, the Head of Immunization Vaccine Development Cluster at the
WHO-Uganda Office said the other challenge that Uganda is likely to face is
that the AstraZeneca vaccine is still undergoing review by the organization
which may take a bit of time.
She said feedback about the
vaccine which is currently only approved through the prequalification stage is
expected at the end of the month. According to her, a country undergoes six
steps before finally accessing the vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is so far the
only candidate that has gone through full approvals.
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However, Dr Alfred Driwale who
heads the vaccinations programme in the Ministry of Health said that the
country is on course with preparations to receive the drugs once they become
available. Although, he listed a number of things that they are yet to do which
are a prerequisite for importation. As of today, he said his team was finalizing
training materials for health workers which they need before engaging districts
to guide on micro-planning.
He also noted that they are yet
to gain consensus on aspects of the target population and vaccine acquisition even
as the president announced that they have already agreed to initially immunize
health workers, teachers and security operatives.
While a lot is yet to be
concluded to guarantee the supply of the COVAX side in the next three weeks, the
other option for Uganda is to have the vaccines from India’s Serum Institute.
The plan is to have 18 million doses from India which will benefit nine million
Ugandans. Driwale says they have just initiated the ordering process for the
But, to Ssengooba, that too
doesn’t come easy. He explained to URN
that owing to high global demand, the country which has also become one of the
world’s top vaccines exporters has priorities that favour the private sector
more. Already, he says, India has announced that they have an order pile that
could go up to November.
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On Uganda making its own vaccines,
Ssengooba says it’s only aspirational.
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In terms of figures by the end of
June, critical categories of people planned to be vaccinated include 110,000
health workers, 200,000 security operatives, 100,000 teachers, 400,000 persons
below 50-years with predisposing health conditions and 3 million people who are
older than 50 years.