Once President Yoweri Museveni urged Ugandans to move in their droves and get vaccinated against Covid-19. He and his wife, Janet, decided to be vaccinated in public.
The narrative then was that if you don’t vaccinate, you are antisocial and dangerous to the community. We were not only vaccinating for our own benefit but for the community as well. But the ministry of health did not state with certainty whether vaccination shields someone from infection, re- infection, and transmission of the virus.
Because of this conundrum, many people viewed the vaccine with skepticism. But the government came up with another narrative.
It claimed that a vaccinated person would not suffer adverse effects if attacked by the virus. The imposition of masks in public places and the devious yearlong national lockdown bolstered these efforts. Most of our vaccines were donated.
Strangely, the Covid-19 campaign was mainly driven by politicians. The scientists took a back seat. We were never told the side effects of the vaccine. It appears the country has no capacity to assess the efficacy of the vaccines. Up until now, we didn’t know if it is safe for pregnant women or those planning to conceive.
Last week, President Museveni directed that all persons in public places (religious gatherings, local council meetings, etc.) should display their certificates of vaccination or be in possession of a negative PCR test within 24 hours. He has ordered that those who are vaccinated get a booster shot.
“We are not going to allow you (if you are not vaccinated). We are to instruct managers of events and public gatherings that somebody without a certificate of vaccination for two doses and a booster should not be allowed. Where there is no up-to-date vaccination certificate, a negative PCR test certificate for 24 hours before is required.”
He added: “I have been informed by the ministry of Health that we have received a total of 48,897,520 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the country through donations and procurement by the government.
Of these, 26,281,566 doses have been administered to the population, and 22,615,954 doses are still in national medical stores. To date, 59% of the population aged 18 and older has received at least two doses of the vaccine, while only 6% of the children aged 12 to 17 have received two doses.
This coverage is below our target of 28.5 million eligible Ugandans (22 million adults and 6.5 million children) who are up to date with their vaccination against Covid-19. I direct the ministry of Health to re-launch the vaccination exercise and ensure more people are vaccinated, especially the elderly, those with comorbidities, and children aged 12–17 years. Let us work together to ensure the coronavirus does not flare up again,” the president directed.
What has informed the president’s decision to compel Ugandans to vaccinate, at a time when Covid has passed its peak and the world has moved on? If the question is to control the spread of the virus, wouldn’t it have been wise to first give the country a report on the impact of vaccination on the transmission of the virus? It is still not known whether vaccinated people can still spread the virus.
The president’s directive also came at the strangest of times. Right when the country is grappling with the Ebola disease. One would have thought that the president should be urging frontline workers to get vaccinated against Ebola.
The president’s directives have revived discriminatory decisions, especially as far as accessing public facilities is concerned. The president needs to rethink his directives.