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Experts warn of organized crime as private pharmacies push to import Covid-19 vaccines

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Health experts have asked the Ministry of Health to be keen on who they accredit from the private sector to be importers of the Covid-19 vaccine.

This comes amidst piling pressure on the Ministry by the private sector to be allowed to avail doses for those that don’t qualify for the anticipated government doses but can afford to pay.

So far, the government is planning the initial about 20 million doses to be utilized by teachers, security operatives and health workers in addition to those that live with health conditions that predispose them to severe Covid-19 disease.

However, an official in the Ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity said they are daily receiving dozens of brokers luring them into buying cheaper vaccines that have not necessarily been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It’s owing to this that Prof. Freddie Ssengooba, a public health policy expert based at Makerere University School of Public Health says Uganda is specifically vulnerable as there are no clear regulatory processes that importers have to follow to the dot.

He says that the government needs to quickly strengthen the regulatory bodies to be able to root out fake vaccines.

Ssengooba says there are red flags that some private providers are selling vaccines, though he couldn’t confirm exactly what kinds of vaccines are on the black market.

He adds that International Police has already released a report warning of organized crime threat to Covid-19 vaccines.

However, the Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng at a press conference on Thursday said they are guarded and have set up a committee to review the viability of including the private sector in vaccine access. She said they are yet to hear from the committee for a way forward.

Meanwhile, URN has learnt that several pharmaceutical brokerage companies have submitted their documents for review with some expressing interest in bringing in Russia’s Sputnik vaccine whose efficacy and quick approval process to be publicly used has sparked debate among scientists globally.

Aceng confirmed that they had discussions with the Ambassador of Russia to Uganda on the possibility of procuring the Russian vaccine.

But Makerere University-based Virologist Dr Misaki Wayengera says it would be risky for the country to go for the Russian drug since there’s still limited information about it.

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