Uganda will this Friday, March 5, receive an initial batch of 864,000 Astra Zeneca Covid-19 vaccines through the COVAX equitable access facility, Chimp Corps report.
The vaccines are expected at Entebbe International Airport tomorrow afternoon. They will be received by high ranking Health Ministry officials.
The vaccines will then be taken to the National Medical Stores (NMS) in Entebbe for storage ahead of the commencement of the vaccination programme starting March 10.
“Uganda’s storage facilities are fantastic,” said Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine.
“We are ahead of so many countries right from NMS. We use solar fridges because the power hasn’t been consistent,” she added.
NMS currently distributes medicines procured by the Government and her development partners, such as USAID, Global Fund, UNICEF, GAVI and World Bank, among others, to all public health facilities in the country.
These 18 million vaccines for Uganda are among the first of more than a billion doses going to developing countries this year through COVAX.
COVAX is explicitly designed to work for high and middle and low-income countries and to ensure that doses are allocated equitably at a global level.
The UK was one of the first countries to back COVAX and to date has committed £548 million to ensure global access to vaccines and has consistently called on other donors to step up their support.
COVAX began to deliver vaccines to lower income countries on Wednesday 24 February. In total more than a billion COVID-19 vaccines will go to up to 92 developing countries, with targets in place to help those countries vaccinate the most vulnerable by June 2021.
Atwine said nobody will be turned away from receiving the Covid-19 vaccine because they don’t have identity cards.
“We only required everyone to have identification because we need them to complete the vaccine after the first dose,” said Atwine.
“We want people to provide informed consent. All information regarding the vaccine will be given prior vaccination,” she added.
“The private sector will be allowed to bring in vaccines but this will be after the ministry has been able to cover a certain percentage of the vulnerable population to limit exploitation.”
The Ministry had targeted to vaccinate individuals from 16 years but following advice from World Health Organisation, jabs will be administered to individuals from 18 years and above.
Uganda has so far confirmed 40,408 cases of COVID-19 with 334 deaths.
Uganda will need a total of up to 45 million doses of vaccines (if all the vaccines provided are of 2 doses) to vaccinate a population of 22 million and extra doses to cater for the refugee population.
Atwine said, “You get to be vaccinated even when you had COVID19 and cured. We have variants, they keep changing. You can’t know how long the antibodies will stay in the body to protect you. When you have the antibodies, this vaccine acts as a booster dose.”
Support to COVAX is just one way the UK is helping countries respond to COVID-19.
In Uganda the UK has also donated test kits and supplied PPE, provided training and helped deliver messaging on COVIID-19 prevention, helped children continue learning through the provision of distance learning lessons, provided media training to help counter misinformation and ensure accurate COVID-19 reporting and funded two COVID-19 Isolation rooms at home for children suffering from cancer in Kampala.
Kate Airey, the British High Commissioner said she was proud that the United Kingdom was one of the biggest donors to COVAX, securing over one billion doses for the most vulnerable people in countries around the world including Uganda.
“The UK is supporting COVAX because we want to be a force for good in the world and because we need a global solution to a global pandemic,” said Kate.
“Next week, thanks to UK aid and other donors support, people in Uganda will start to be vaccinated; I hope this will be a major step forward to ending the pandemic,” she emphasised.
The COVAX facility communicated a tentative allocation of 3,552,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Uganda for the period January- June 2021.
Of this allocation, 864,000 doses arrive by March 5, 2021 and the remaining 2,688,000 by June 2021.
In the course of 2021, Uganda expects to receive 17,872,037 doses of COVID 19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility on a quarterly basis for 20% of its population.
Health Minister Dr Diana Aceng said Uganda targets to vaccinate 49.6% of the population which is about 21,936,011 people, in a phased manner.
Each phase is planned to cover 20% of the population which is about 4,387,202 people. The eligible population lies in the age range of 18 years and above.
“In the context of global pressure on vaccine stocks, the priority persons to be vaccinated is guided by the occupational risk of infection, risk of developing severe disease, death from COVID- 19, and population characteristics (age, gender and geographical location),” she observed.
Phase 1 of the vaccination exercise will focus on:
Health workers (Public, Private Not for Profit (PNFP) and Private for Profit (PFP)) estimated at 150,000
Security personnel (UPDF, Police, Prisons); estimated at 250,000
Teachers (Public and Private) among other essential social service providers; 550,000
Persons from the age 50 years and above, estimated at 3,348500
Persons with underlying health conditions aged below 50 years, estimated at 500,000
Other emerging high risk and priority essential groups ( airlines, media, Prisoners, tour operators and guides, Bankers, immigration officers, UWA, URA, Humanitarian workers and others to be identified..