Health workers who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be denied access to hospitals.
This comes at a time when health workers are hesitant to get vaccinated. According to the health ministry’s plan, by now at least 150,000 health workers should have been fully vaccinated but data from the Ministry of Health shows less than 50 percent of all health workers are fully vaccinated and less than 70 percent have received at least one dose of any vaccine.
Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the Director-General of Health Services at the Ministry of Health says unvaccinated health workers are a threat to both patients and their families.
“There’s no reason why health workers should not be vaccinated and enter our health facilities to spread the disease to patients,” Dr. Mwebesa said.
According to Mwebesa, they are going to send out a circular to all health facilities in the country in regard to the directive. While Mwebesa did not give details on when this directive will be implemented, he revealed that health workers will be given a grace period to get vaccinated after which they will be considered as absent from their stations if they insist on not getting vaccinated.
President Yoweri Museveni passed similar directives concerning teachers earlier in the year. At the time, uptake of the vaccine among teachers was low with less than 30 percent of the teachers receiving one jab. Currently, more than 50 percent of the teachers have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Dr. Alfred Driwale, the program manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization says evidence shows that vaccination offers protection against COVID-19 infections.
“Health workers are making key priority groups that we know are very susceptible to getting infected due to the nature of their work. We know that vaccination works and can stop them from being explored to severe forms of the disease,” he said.
Uganda has had two COVID-19 waves and more than 3,000 health workers have been infected with the disease and more than 70 succumbing to the disease.
Dr. Herbert Luswata, the Secretary-General of the Uganda Medical Association, an umbrella organization that brings together different medical practitioners says the ministry’s directive is illegal and abuses human rights since there is no national law that makes vaccination compulsory.
“While it’s good for health workers to get vaccinated, this directive is illegal because persons are not supposed to be coerced to get vaccinated. These vaccines are under research and as such persons taking them need to consent. You can’t force people,” Dr. Luswata said.
He adds that since doctors are scheduled to start their industrial action next week on Monday, those who are not vaccinated will not be affected by this directive.