KAMPALA, UGANDA: The ministry of health has not planned to vaccinate learners below the age of 15 years as previously communicated by their counterparts in the education sector.
Previously, the ministries of education and health had announced that the government would carry out vaccination of all learners aged 12 and above as means of forestalling the spread of COVID-19 in schools. This was at the backdrop of increased cluster infections across the country in many learning institutions.
The immunization of learners was supposed to back the immunization of teachers so that the spread of the disease in schools is controlled. However, plans seem to have changed, health officials now say there are no plans to vaccinate learners below the age of 15 using Pfizer vaccines that have proved to be effective in children in this age group.
Dr Alfred Driwale, the programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization says vaccinating learners would be a waste of vaccines.
“In COVID vaccination, leave children alone,” Driwale said. “You would be wasting vaccines. It has never been our plan to vaccinate children. Their age group has shown not to be at high risk of getting infected. They are relatively safe compared to other persons that need the vaccines.”
Instead of vaccinating children, the health ministry says the Pfizer vaccines that are expected to arrive this month will be used to vaccinate people in high priority groups that have not been vaccinated. Uganda is expected to receive a donation of over one million Pfizer vaccines from the United States.
To date, less than 500,000 people in the priority groups have received two jabs of any COVID-19 vaccine out of the targeted 4.8 million people. Persons in this group have received AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines.
Dr Joyce Kaducu, the minister of state in charge of primary education told URN that a decision is yet to be made on the use of the vaccines.
She however intimates that a criteria to vaccinate children in this age group is yet to be made. She says once it is made, priority will be given to teenagers with underlying conditions like HIV.
According to Kaducu, government will decide what is best for teenagers following scientific evidence.
A study published in the medical journal, The Lancet in May found a negligible of children infected have succumbed to Covid-19.