Uganda on Wednesday rolled out the first phase of a nationwide Covid-19 vaccination.
The country received a second batch of 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 7 from the government of India as a donation, to add onto the initial acquisition of 864,000 doses through the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) facility on March 5.
According to the country’s Ministry of Health, the first phase of vaccination will go on until March 19, and cover 950,000 frontline workers including health workers, security personnel, teachers and journalists.
Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng was the first to receive the jab. She said that because of the high demand of the vaccine worldwide, majority of Ugandans will have to wait longer to receive the jabs as more doses arrive in small batches.
“The public should be patient as we follow the schedule of the vaccination programme and they should also turn up for the vaccination whenever a schedule is announced,” Dr Aceng said.
The second round of vaccination in the first phase will be of persons above 50 years who are estimated to be 3.3 million and people in this age group with underlying health conditions estimated at about 500,000.
Health Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine said these numbers include refugees, who will be required to appear at health centres with their identification documents just as citizens are also expected to do.
“We shall be vaccinating refugees together with their host communities. We shall still consider special groups among them like the elderly and those with underlying conditions. We shall not vaccinate every refugee,” Dr Atwine said.
Uganda currently hosts about 1.4 million refugees from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda.
Phase two of the vaccinations will target citizens below 50 years with underlying health conditions and thereafter those between 18 and 50 years.
Those below the age of 18 are not targeted for vaccination in the initial two phases.
Covax will deliver 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca doses to Uganda, just enough to cover around 46 percent of the population.
China has also donated 300,000 doses of its brand of vaccine although these are yet to arrive.
Uganda’s Covid-19 vaccination comes at a time when the country is seeing a drastic fall in the number of new cases and the country is slowly opening up economic sectors. Health authorities, however, are wary of and predict a second wave of infections in about two months, but hope that a fasttracked vaccination could slow infection further and save lives.
By Wednesday, Uganda had recorded a total of 40,000 cumulative cases, 15,000 recoveries and 334 deaths from 894,500 tests countrywide.