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Govt should show strong leadership during vaccination drive

The vaccination against Covid-19 has been ongoing amidst debates on many issues, such as free will and consent, accessibility, and possible expiry, among others.

The government and private actors have also been drumming up the need for Ugandans to get vaccinated but done little about teaching the masses about the vaccination so as to undo the already fixated mysteries around the vaccine.

We have continued to see massive forceful vaccination of persons to the extent of the local leaders taking the law in their hands by ejecting unvaccinated passengers from public vehicles and forcing them to take the vaccine, albeit not even tested first.

Many have continued to deny Ugandans services for lack of a vaccination card and all this is being done in the absence of a legal framework and at the watch of the ministry of Health, which is sad.

One wonders whether the ministry of Health is in charge or not. I have personally called upon the ministry several times to come out strongly and take charge, especially on those that are making their own laws and mandates in the name of fighting Covid-19. We cannot continue operating like this.

We need someone in charge; RDCs and RCCs have usurped the powers of the ministry, and have gone ahead to craft and implement their own illegal decrees at the watch of the ministry of Health. President Yoweri Museveni, in his address, indicated the full opening of the economy in a phased manner. He reiterated the need for people to get vaccinated in order to support the full reopening of the economy.

For example, for the public transport to fully open, all the passengers and the drivers and conductors must be vaccinated, which looks good on the face of it; however, there is no legal framework and a proper implementation plan for this to happen.

On December 3, 2021, a number of Ugandans were stranded in Wakiso and Kampala as they went to the vaccination centres and there was no one to attend to them as it was alleged that the health workers had not received their allowances. Further, the public transport rejected them because they were not vaccinated.

One wonders, how will you be able to reach the vaccination centres without getting transport? How shall we deal with this dilemma given the fact that the vaccination centres are in specific places and for one to reach them, they need transport? Can we have mobile vaccination centres?

We should have purchased mobile vaccination vans instead of double- cabin pickups, which have also been taken over by politicians.

As schools open up officially, some are charging parents what they call “testing fees” for their children before reporting to school and no one is bothered about the vice!

There is no single circular or notice or guidance I have seen from the ministry of Health to the schools on how they should handle the return of students amid the Covid-19 situation. Every school is making its own regulations, save for the known standard operating procedures.

Further, isn’t it that for one to be vaccinated, their Covid-19 status needs to be known? And, therefore, testing before vaccination is good practice. If it is, will the testing before vaccination be free? Has the ministry planned for this or is it unnecessary?

It is unfortunate that we are still grappling with these questions two years into the pandemic!

The ministry of Health needs to come out strongly and take charge of the situation; otherwise, the country may be plunged into a crisis in the name of vaccination, prevention and control of Covid-19.

What happens if we get another pandemic in the middle of struggling to deal with Covid-19? Do we have the capacity as a nation to respond and deal with two or more pandemics at the same time?

It is sad that what started well is now being handled without care. The ministry needs to rein in and take charge but within the law and in accordance with the international human rights standards.

The author is a lawyer.

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