GULU, UGANDA: Gulu district health officials have returned a total of 108,220 doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to the Ministry of Health.
The vaccines were part of 166,586 doses of Moderna that the district received early last month to boost the mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign launched in the region.
Yoweri Idiba, the Assistant Gulu District Health Officer told a quarterly performance review meeting on Expanded Programme on Immunization for Gulu district at the Gulu District Council Hall on Wednesday that a few people embraced the vaccines leaving them idle, yet they had a short shelf life.
Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine multiple-dose vials are stored frozen between -50º to -15ºC and can be stored refrigerated between 2° to 8°C for up to 30 days prior to first use. According to the manufacturers guidelines, Moderna vaccine vials should be discarded 12 hours after the first puncture and they can only be transported at frozen and refrigerated temperatures using a portable unit or container qualified
But Idiba says that the demand for Moderna was low, yet they did not have the facilities to meet the storage requirements. He however says that they are keeping less than 7,000 doses of the vaccine in the district to prepare for the second jab for only those people who received their first jab.
The health ministry launched mass COVID-19 vaccination in Acholi sub-region late November targeting some 916,062 people.
In Gulu district and Gulu city, health officials had targeted to vaccinate 165,192 people.
But according to Idiba, although the mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign helped to increase vaccine coverage, the set targets were not met. For instance, only 33,386 people out of the targeted 107,472 people in Gulu district and 31,118 people against the targeted 58,440 people in Gulu city got vaccinated.
He however blames this on misinformation spread on social media about the COVID-19 vaccine and inadequate mobilization that saw few people getting vaccinated.
He also disclosed that the cases of COVID-19 in the district have started going up in both the district and the city adding that he suspects cases to be linked to the new Omicron variant. Statistics shared by Idiba indicate that the district currently has 22 active cases of COVID-19 among health workers (six cases in Patiko sub-county and 16 cases in Unyama sub-county.
Gulu Resident District Commissioner Stephen Odong Latek called on the populace to embrace COVID-19 vaccination with the economy set to reopen by January next year.
He says vaccination cards most likely may become a prerequisite in accessing essential services and offices in the country.
The district health department currently has a stock of only 7,223 COVID-19 vaccines, out of which 7,000 are Moderna and 223 Sinovac vaccines. William Onyai, Gulu District Health Educator told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that the remaining vaccines will be utilized in January for those receiving their second dose of vaccines.
Gulu district has registered a cumulative of 9,059 COVID-19 cases with 219 deaths since March last year. A total of 2,049 cases underwent treatment at the Intensive Care units of St Mary’s Hospital Lacor and Gulu Regional Referral Hospital.