Uganda is set to destroy over 400,000 doses of expired Covid-19 vaccines at a time when less than half of the targeted 22 million people have been vaccinated.
Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said the vaccines had been supplied to the northern part of Uganda, but were not used.
The expired doses are mainly Moderna and a few doses of AstraZeneca, she added.
Health State Minister Margaret Muhanga had a few weeks ago said the government is working on vaccination drives across the country, especially in northern Uganda where the uptake was low.
She said the low uptake of the vaccine had affected the fight against the virus.
“Due to low uptake of the vaccines, we started vaccination campaigns across the country, starting with the Teso, Lango sub-regions,” she said.
At the time, she said the target is to have over 15 million people vaccinated by the start of January 2022.
Health Ministry spokesperson, Emmanuel Ainebyoona, says the destruction of the vaccines will follow protocols and will be handled by the National Drug Authority and the National Medical Stores.
The ministry is increasing sensitisation and providing better access to the vaccines to curb wastage, he added.
Of the 34 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines Uganda received, only about 12 million doses have been administered, according to Ms Muhanga.
The country received more than 500,000 doses of Moderna vaccines, which were specifically sent to the seven districts that make up Acholi sub-region. However, sources indicate that only 100,000 doses were used.
“Moderna is ultra-frozen, it has to be thawed. Before use, when it was unutilised in Acholi, we took it to western Uganda, but couldn’t utilise it before 30 days,” Minister Aceng told media in Kampala.
She said the country has received cold chain equipment worth $8.3 million for vaccine storage, adding that 1,000 fridges will be installed in various health centres.
Given the short lifespan of many of the donations, there have been concerns as governments are finding it difficult to dispense them in good time
On Christmas Day, The EastAfrican reported that more than 40 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines in East Africa’s government stores were nearing expiry, as apathy and logistical challenges slow down their administration.
In the face of an accelerated spread of the Omicron variant in recent weeks, data compiled by The EastAfrican from the regional governments’ health ministries shows that out of 74 million vaccines that the region received in donations and purchases, the region had administered only 30.1 million doses.
Sub-Saharan Africa has administered 153 million doses of the 317 million received, according to the African Union’s Partnership for Evidence-based Response to Covid-19 research.
Nigeria has had to destroy more than a million expired doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, while Senegal also announced that at least 400,000 of its vaccines had expired as a result of low uptake.
South Sudan last year returned some vaccines after it concluded it would be unable to administer them before their expiry.
Uganda has been driving vaccination campaigns, including enforcing vaccine mandates in public places.
With the reopening of schools following two years of closure due to Covid-19, all the 550,000 teachers were required to present vaccination certificates or be denied entry into the institution.
The government said the same will apply to all people using public transport, visiting government or public facilities, or accessing shopping malls, although this is yet to be implemented.
The country is battling a spike in infections, with the entry of the Omicron variant last month marking the beginning of the third wave of the pandemic in the country.
This has seen the number of cases rise from a daily average of 30 to over 1,500 cases and the positivity rate rise to over 23 percent from about 0.3 percent.
Uganda faced the first wave of the pandemic between April and June 2020 and the second wave around the same time, forcing the country into two painful lockdowns that saw over 15 million learners stay home for two years, destruction of business patterns, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. As a result, the country’s growth rate dropped to 3 percent from the pre-pandemic rate of over 6 percent per annum.