Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Vaccination of Cabinet Ministers and legislators against COVID-19 today kicked off at the Parliament building following a move by the Ministry of Health to adjust the vaccine roll-out plan.
The Ministry altered the vaccine roll-out plan and decided to vaccinate 964,000 people. Initially, the ministry targeted 482,000 people, a number that represented half of the available vaccines.
They intended to use the vaccines in two rounds, giving each person two shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine, eight weeks apart. But a decision was later made that instead, the vaccines should all be used, while waiting for another shipment which will be used for the second jab. The new decision brought on board new target groups of people to be vaccinated including legislators, staff of parliament and others.
Currently, over 10,000 people including health workers, security officers, journalists and the elderly have been vaccinated nationwide. Government also intends to vaccinate teachers in this first phase.
The First Deputy Prime Minister, Moses Ali was among the first Ministers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine jab saying that it is important they undergo the process.
The 82-year old launched the mass Covid-19 vaccination program on 10th March at Mulago Specialized Women and Neonatal Hospital but left the venue without receiving a jab, saying that as a disciplined person he could not jump the queue when his turn had not yet arrived.
Today, the Adjumani West County MP showed up early at Parliament to receive the vaccine saying that given that he is 82 years, he must have the jab. He said that the vaccine was safe and appealed to those hesitant to receive it to do so.
The vaccination exercise at Parliament is going to take two days according to Robina Nabbanja, the State Minister of Health for General Duties. She says that the Ministry is targeting all members of the 10th Parliament, new members of the 11th Parliament scheduled for swearing-in in May and staff of parliament.
Other Ministers including the Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi, State Minister for Environment Beatrice Anywar, State Minister for Sports Hamson Obua and several MPs have also received their first Covid-19 vaccine jab.
A section of MPs who have been vaccinated said that the exercise is important and that there is need for all Ugandans to be vaccinated.
Peter Ssematimba, the Busiro South MP encouraged the public to embrace the exercise.
Fred Turyamuhweza, the Rujumbura County MP says that Ugandans need to take available chances to vaccinate given that many lives have been lost since March 2020 when Uganda started registering Covid-19 cases.
Gaffa Mbwatekamwa, the Kasambya County MP also shared the same sentiment saying that different theories about the vaccine should be ignored by Ugandans and embrace the vaccination exercise.
Uganda is expected to receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX facility as part of the 3.5 million vaccines donation. In addition to this, the country is expecting 400,000 more doses as part of the first batch from the Serum Institute of India.
Dr. Alfred Driwale, the Programme Manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunisation says with the expected vaccines in May 2021, they will be able to fully vaccinate all the people covered in the first round with the second jab.
“They will be our priority, after them, we shall then start on another phase of vaccination,” he said.
If the vaccines do not arrive on time, at least 12 weeks after the first jab was issued, the level of protection that the first jab offers is expected to reduce to 50 per cent or even lower. In situations such as that, the World Health Organization- WHO recommends that countries follow up with the second jab as soon as vaccines are made available.