Uganda yesterday received the first batch of the 3,552,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine shipped via COVAX, the world’s facility for universal access to COVID-19 vaccines.
COVAX allocated Uganda, 3,552,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for the period January–June 2021. Yesterday, the ministry of Health received 864,000 doses and the remaining 2,688,000 doses are expected in the country by June 2021 according to the press statement.
Government targets to vaccinate at least 49.6 per cent of the population (about 21,936,011), in a phased manner, with each phase planned to cover 20 per cent of the population – approximately 4.38 million people.
The vaccine doses were received at Entebbe International airport by Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero accompanied by members of the COVAX Facility and ambassadors of the European Union and countries whose funding enabled the manufacturing, transport, and distribution.
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi - the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner. UNICEF is handling the procurement and delivery of the vaccines and related supplies on behalf of the COVAX Facility.
The AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) were transported by UNICEF from Mumbai, India to Uganda. Other African countries including Ghana, Gambia, Rwanda, Kenya among others have also received their allocations of the same vaccine.
The first phase of the free vaccination will target health workers in public and private health facilities, who by the nature of their work are at higher risk of contracting the disease compared to other categories of people.
Other target groups in order of priority are security personnel; teachers; humanitarian front-line workers, people above 50 years with underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart, kidney, or liver disease; people aged 18-50 with the same underlying conditions; and other emerging high risk and priority essential groups as more vaccine doses arrive in the country. The free vaccination will be launched next week on March 10 at Mulago Nation Referral hospital.
“The ministry of Health is finalizing preparations to start vaccination against COVID-19 and with the arrival of the initial batch of 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines [on Friday], vaccination is scheduled to begin on 10 March 2021,” Aceng said.
“The arrival of the vaccines in Uganda is a significant moment and a concrete example of global solidarity in action,” said EU Ambassador to Uganda, Attilio Pacifici.
“Ever since the outbreak of this unprecedented crisis, which is affecting all of us, the European Union and its member states have supported Uganda and our other African partners in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Health care providers have been pivotal in managing the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda. With their crucial role, dealing with patients, comes the high risk of being infected with the disease. We, therefore, thought it wise to have them immunized first along with teachers to protect them,” said the WHO Representative to Uganda, Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam.
“We specially want to thank the donor partners including the European Union, the UK Government, The United States of America and others for the support they made to COVAX through GAVI to make this possible,” he added.
UNICEF Representative in Uganda, Dr. Munir Safieldin said, “Today marks an important milestone for Uganda. UNICEF is pleased to be a key partner in the COVAX Facility by ensuring that the vaccines are delivered to the people that need them most.”
“Unless we protect health care providers, health systems will remain overwhelmed, and the most vulnerable children will continue to lose access to life-saving services, risking years of progress and resulting in the poorest children falling further behind. The faster we can combat the pandemic, the faster Uganda can recover, leading to schools re-opening, health centers functioning and ensuring that serious disruptions to children’s lives end,” Safieldin underlined.