By Shiprah Kwagaka
Health facilities in Iganga District are challenged with a low uptake of Covid-19 booster doses by locals.
Through interviews, health workers intimated that there are information gaps to be addressed for the locals to embrace booster doses uptake. Many are unaware that they are necessary even if the President made an appeal to the public to embrace them.
Over two weeks ago, the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni gave a directive to the Ministry of Health to re-launch a vaccination drive in order to meet the targeted 28.5 Million people.
Only 59 per cent of the population 18 years and above have received at least two doses of the vaccines below the 75 percent recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A mini survey by our reporter showed that a number of individuals within the community were not aware of booster doses after full vaccination.
At different facilities visited, out of every three people who volunteered information and had turned up for Covid-19 vaccination, none was queuing up for a booster dose. For instance, at Iganga Main Hospital one of the people Saifu Kyemba noted that he was only interested in getting a certificate.
In addition, Maria Kyasalwa an elderly resident of Bulubandi village in Iganga district was shocked on learning there are booster doses and expressed that she would prefer that such services get closer to her home, “It is hard for me to keep making movements by myself, let them move door to door as they did with polio recently.”
Dr. Joel Mulidho who is a health practitioner in Iganga mentioned that people that usually show up for booster doses are those visiting from places closer to the urban areas because information in these locations spreads easily.
Dr. Thierno Balde, the Incident Manager WHO Africa Regional Office, made a call on the same matter in an address to journalists noting that while there are no cases of resurgence in Africa at the moment, locals need to be fed with information to stay on high alert.
He noted; “People need to remain vigilant by wearing face masks for those who can, the vulnerable like the elderly should take up booster doses at least every six months.”
Dr. Balde mentioned that following the trends from 2021, festive seasons like November into December registered a shoot up of Covid-19 cases, which call for vigilance.
Taking note that mass vaccination is the only way to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19, the government is bound from imposing blanket vaccination mandates even under such circumstances of low uptake.
Najib Kasole, a Human Rights Legal practitioner however emphasised that the locals are in their right to be availed information by government on the Covid-19 vaccines regardless of their geographic location and status quo.
In response to the information gaps Dr Micheal Baganizi, Deputy Program Manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization (UNEPI) noted that while they have never ceased informing the public, interventions have been heightened through local health workers and leaders to reawaken the public to take up the drive.