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Karamoja health authorities demand J&J vaccines to inoculate pastoralists

Covid-19 vaccination is ongoing in Karamoja.

Moroto, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Health authorities in Karamoja have asked for more Johnson & Johnson vaccines to help them vaccinate pastoralists whose movement is highly unpredictable.

During the dry spell, pastoralists from Karamoja move in search of water and pastures. There are concerns by health authorities that the targeted populations could migrate elsewhere making it hard for health workers to access them.

Currently, the health workers conduct mobile outreaches especially in Kotido and Moroto in order to access the pastoralists who are reluctant to go to health centers and other immunization points. Earlier, the ministry stated that Johnson and Johnson vaccines were suitable for use upcountry because only a single shot is needed.

The government targets to attain at least 90% vaccination coverage ahead of the planned full reopening of the economy. Despite this, the health ministry is yet to distribute enough Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

Moroto District Health Officer, Dr. Hans Lokaale, says that there is high demand for the vaccine because of its suitability for mobile communities like pastoralists.

Lokaale made the remarks while reviewing the district targets on vaccination where he admitted the district was way below average. In November, Moroto district COVID-19 taskforce targeted to have at least 60% of the 118,500 population vaccinated by January 2022.

However, only 24% of the vaccination target representing 28,000 people has been met. Dr. Lokaale has warned this target may not be attained once the pastoralists start their usual temporal migrations dictated by weather, availability of water, and pastures.

Dr. Serino Acar, the Kotido District Health Officer says that there is a good uptake of vaccines throughout outreach programs amidst high demand for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Dr. Acar hopes when the ministry rolls out regional vaccination campaigns to Karamoja, more people could be vaccinated.

He also expressed fears that the pastoralists may miss out if they move to hard-to-reach areas or if they lose contact with them. Every year, Karimojong pastoralists move out of their districts in search of water and pasture for cattle.

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