KAMPALA, The Daily Express Uganda: Uganda is in the process of securing over 35 Covid-19 Vaccine doses, this according to the director-general of health services at the Ministry of Health, Dr Henry Mwebesa.
He said the country will have the vaccine by the end of February 2021.
“Arrangements are being made with donors, including the World Health Organisation, Unicef, and GAVI under COVAX facility to have the COVID-19 vaccine delivered to us by February 2021,” Dr. Mwebesa said.
Uganda will first receive vaccines to cover about 20% of the population. This is an equivalent of nine million people, with funding from COVIX facility.
Mwebesa explained that since each individual will be getting two doses, it implies Uganda will first receive 18 million doses of the vaccine. Each dose will be administered in an interval of one month, he noted.
The COVAX facility will also reserve another batch of 18 million doses to cover a population of nine million and will be paid for by the Government. The two vaccine batches will only benefit 18 million beneficiaries — an equivalent of 42% of the total population at 42 million.
According to health experts, the percentage of vaccination will be too low for the country to attain herd immunity.
The director of Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVURI), Prof. Ponciano Kaleebu, explained that for a country to attain herd immunity, it must have achieved 70%.
Herd immunity, also known as population immunity, is a concept used for vaccination in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.
Kaleebu said herd immunity combines those who have been vaccinated and the infected. However, the challenge is that with Uganda experiencing a phase of community infection, it is difficult to know those who got infected and recovered or those who were asymptomatic.
He said to have herd immunity, effort has to be made to get more people vaccinated.
Why Astrazeneca vaccines
Although there are three vaccines that have advanced AstraZeneca and Oxford, Pfizer and Moderna — Mwebesa said Uganda is likely to choose Astra Zeneca.
Although AstraZeneca vaccine is said to be 70% effective, a figure lower than 90% efficacy rate for Pfizer and Moderna, Mwebesa recommended it because it is stable.
“AstraZeneca vaccine can survive under temperatures of between 00C to 80C, a range suitable for immunisation fridges in Uganda,” he explained. He added that choosing Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would pose a big challenge because they require very cold temperatures of about -700C.
However, Dr Mwebesa could not state how much the Government is committing for the purchase of the vaccines because the manufacturers have not yet set the purchase price.
Access by private sector
For quick and easy access to the AstraZeneca vaccine, mechanisms will be put in place to allow the private sector purchase and sell the vaccine.
“A consortium of organisations will be allowed to buy the vaccine as long as they meet the required standards. But, National Medical Stores will oversee the whole procurement process,” said the chairperson of the Scientific Committee at the health ministry, Dr Misaki Wayengera. Once the vaccine is there, other private facilities that need it can get it.
Who qualifies for covid-19 vaccine?
The chairperson of the Scientific Committee at the health ministry, Dr Misaki Wayengera, said everyone should get the vaccine and over time it should be incorporated into the national vaccine programme.
But through an equitable COVID-19 vaccine strategy, in the first phase, emphasis will be put on immunising the elderly because they have vulnerabilities, frontline health workers, and military and security personnel.
In the second phase, essential workers such as teachers and other people who are exposed because of the nature of their jobs will be considered.
The young people below 18 years can get their vaccine shots later as government procures more because they have less vulnerability,
the director-general of health services, Dr Henry Mwebesa, said.