Govt’s new magic bullet to save expiring vaccines

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Govt’s new magic bullet to save expiring vaccines
Govt’s new magic bullet to save expiring vaccines

Africa-Press – Uganda. The government has embarked on a countrywide accelerated mass vaccination campaign as a strategy to ramp up the uptake of Covid-19 vaccines to save the available 12.4 million doses from expiry.

Half of the 12.4 million vaccines only have three months of shelf life left.

The revelation of more than six million doses worth $43.1m (Shs160 billion) at risk of expiry by September were made yesterday the Information minister, Dr Chris Byaromunsi, triggering concerns of wastage and what the offices responsible are doing about it.

Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, the national Covid-19 vaccination coordinator, told this newspaper yesterday that the campaign started on June 21 and will run for one month.

“They [vaccines] will only expire if we do not use them within those dates…they have different dates and we keep an inventory on when we should use these vaccines and some of these are already distributed in the districts. We are already vaccinating,” he said

He added: “There will be a vaccination point in every parish. Every day, we target that a team of four people will vaccinate 200 people.”

The campaign dubbed, Mop Up, will also pay particular attention to attaining 100 percent vaccination of earlier target groups, especially the elderly and persons living with comorbidities.

“Because we did not achieve 100 percent of our elderly people, the elderly people are our biggest risk. And as a new wave starts, they are likely to get severe disease and we have to make sure they are covered. We are going to have a mobile team to look for the homes of the elderly who cannot walk. That is why we call it a Mop Up because of the element of in reach to the last mile of the elderly people,”Dr Kyabayinze said.

The ministry is also targeting six million people who have taken one dose or haven’t taken any and those who need a booster, 50 years and above and took their last jab six months.

“When you add our target, there are about 17 million people in this one month. But when we target that number, we plan that half of that number will show up,” he said.

The campaign will take on a multi sectoral approach, including enlisting the voices of politicians as they take to constituencies to popularise the Parish Development Model.

The ministry is rallying the population through local media.

“In every region, there is a local radio station and we have been having talk shows and some are delaying because the dates of actual vaccination have to be published, so you tell the people tomorrow, show up here but we shall be walking in the villages,” he said.

A communication issued by the Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, indicated that the government has agreed to have children vaccinated with the parents/ guardians’ consent.

“We shall run a vaccination programme for children 12 to 17 years of age during holidays and parents are free to take their children for vaccination if they are ready to do it. For those not wiling, nobody is forcing you,” Dr Aceng told NTV on Tuesday.

The children make up part of the target number, according to Dr Kyabayinze.

The ministry has so far conducted two accelerated mass vaccination campaigns in sub-regions of Buganda, Ankole, Karamoja, Bugisu, Bukedi, Lango, Teso, Acholi, and Kigezi

Analysis of the statistics by the ministry indicate that 47 percent of the 21.7m doses were administered in the past six months. On average, 1.7m doses have been consumed monthly.

Vaccination against the virus started in March 2021, but officials say uptake was upended by apathy and misinformation.

Countering misinformation

The toughest obstacle to vaccination progress according to the Health ministry has been myths about the effects of the vaccine.

To counter this, Dr Kyabanyinze said they have conducted and will continue to undertake media sensitisation, partners with local and religious leaders and institutions and politicians.

“Time alone has proved us right, when we started, they said people will never come, but 21 million doses have been utilised. There is also a lie that children do not need vaccination and parents do not want their children to come, but in the villages, parents are coming with their children,” he said.

“We have also shared with Parliament and Cabinet information so that when they go out to speak about the Parish Development Mode, they incooperate our message,” Dr Kyabanyinze said.

US Embassy response

‘‘We continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders in support of efforts to get Covid-19 vaccine doses administered to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. In any vaccination campaign, it’s normal for a certain number of doses to go unused. While regrettable, this happens around the globe. The logistics of mass vaccination campaigns are complex.

Covid-19 hasn’t gone away. It is still a risk and indeed in Uganda, Covid-19 cases have increased in recent weeks. We all need to work together to counter misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines. Covid-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing serious illness and death from Covid. In fact, rapid uptake of vaccines is the strategy we have to use reduce the impact of Covid-19.’’

US Embassy spokesperson
Tony Kujawa

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