Only 1 per cent of registered teachers in Uganda have taken the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine so far, seven weeks after the voluntary vaccination process was launched in the country.
Teachers are among the select vulnerable and essential groups alongside health workers, journalists, security officers meant to be vaccinated before a countrywide rollout.
However, some teachers have given excuses like long distances to the vaccination centres as some of the reasons why the many of them haven't taken the jab.
The chairperson of headteachers Arapai sub-county in Soroti, Stephen Otim reported that the long distances to vaccination centres have hindered the teachers' response to the exercise. Otim, says teachers want the Covid-19 vaccination extended nearer because some find it hard to travel for more than 10 kilometers to get vaccinated.
It was hoped that vaccinating teachers could enable further reopening of schools affected by the Covid-19 pandemic which forced over 1.5 million learners out of school.
The director of Basic and Secondary Education, Ismail Mulindwa, says over 550,000 teachers had been targeted for vaccination but only 7,000 or about 1.2% reported for vaccination. According to Mulindwa, the ministry of Education is collaborating with the Health ministry to ensure that issues raised by the teachers are addressed.
Mulindwa says that the government cannot just look on as the teachers try to use excuses to avoid being vaccinated. Vaccinations according to the guidelines are supposed to be voluntary.
But Mulindwa argues that although it is one's right to receive or refuse to be vaccinated, the ministry will sensitize the teachers about why they should volunteer to be vaccinated.
Mulindwa also says that working together with the Health ministry to work on the issue of distance was identified by the teachers as an excuse of not vaccinating. He says that centers of vaccination are going to be brought nearer to the schools.
Mulindwa adds that the ministry has already issued letters to the local government leaders instructing them to support the vaccination exercise of teachers and here the Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), education and health district officials are to be involved in mobilizing teachers for vaccination.
Covid-19 vaccinations are taking place at lower health centres and hospitals but the teachers in what appears like vaccine hesitancy are shunning them. Teachers in the rural communities are complaining that the health centers and hospitals are far from their stations.