Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Corporate organizations willing to vaccinate their staff against COVID-19 can now import in their doses after the Ministry of Health (MOH) gave them a nod on Thursday.
Speaking to journalists, Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng said the decision was reached following countless requests by corporate companies seeking to have their staff vaccinated against the viral respiratory disease and yet they are not among the special groups so far being targeted.
She says the companies are now free to get the vaccines on condition that they will not sell them to the final recipients and that they are those that have been cleared by the World Health Organization for emergency use.
“The Ministry would like to inform organizations that are interested in providing vaccines to their employees to write to the Director General Health Services requesting to import COVID-19 vaccines which are cleared by WHO for Emergency use and approved by NDA for use in. The letter should indicate the number of employees and their dependents that are eligible for vaccination,” Aceng said.
Aceng added that, “Importation will be allowed through the National Medical stores for purposes of maintaining the cold chain and viability of the vaccines. The vaccines you will be importing if authorized are not for sale, but only for use within the organization.”
The World Health Organisation has so far cleared four vaccines for emergency, three being the AstraZeneca versions made in UK, in the Republic of Korea and at the Serum Institute of India. The other is the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine which hasn’t been widely used by countries in Africa.
Aceng says companies are free to import even the Pfizer BioNtech one as long as they fulfill the safety requirements and are approved by the National Drug Authority. Also, she said the ministry is finalizing the accreditation procedures to allow private companies to import the drug for sale.
However, this development comes amidst warning by experts on the danger of allowing private individuals trade in a drug that is not yet approved. In an interview with URN, Health Policy expert Prof. Freddie Ssengooba said the country risks having fakes that the regulatory agencies may eventually fail to root out.
He says already in some places, there’s unverified claims of private dealers selling vaccines.
The professor says having people privately acquire the drug and get through approvals by regulators, it is even tougher as sometimes drug verification doesn’t go through proper provisions.
Meanwhile, through the free government vaccination exercise that was launched recently, the Ministry reports to have so far vaccinated 32,000 people who include health workers, teachers, security operatives and the elderly of 70 years and above.
Overall, the government plans to vaccinate a total of 22 million Ugandans. The rest can take the vaccine through private arrangements that are continuously being cleared.