Health Authorities in Karamoja have asked for more Johnson & Johnson vaccines to help them vaccinate pastoralists because they are nomadic and unpredictable.
During the dry spell, pastoralists from Karamoja who are nomadic in nature move in search of water and pastures making it hard for health workers to access them. Currently, health workers conduct mobile outreaches especially in Kotido and Moroto in order to access the pastoralists who are reluctant to go to health centers and other immunization points.
The ministry of Health has stated that Johnson and Johnson vaccines were suitable for use mobile populations and hard to reach areas because only a single shot is needed. Despite this, the Health Ministry is yet to send enough Johnson and Johnson vaccines to Karamoja.
Moroto District Health Officer, Dr. Hans Lokaale, says that there is high demand for the vaccine because of its suitability for mobile communities like pastoralists. Lokaale made the remarks while reviewing the district targets on vaccination where he admitted the district was way below average. In November, Moroto District COVID-19 Taskforce targeted to have at least 60% of the 118,500 people vaccinated by January 2022.
However, only 24% of the vaccination target representing 28, 000 people has been met. Dr. Lokaale has warned this target may not be attained once the pastoralists start their usual temporal migrations dictated by weather, availability of water, and pastures.
Dr. Serino Acar, the Kotido District Health Officer, says that there is a good uptake of vaccines throughout outreach programs amidst high demand for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Dr. Acar hopes when the ministry rolls out regional vaccination campaigns to Karamoja, more people could be vaccinated.
He also expressed fears that the pastoralists may miss out if they move to hard-to-reach areas or if they lost contact with them. Every year, Karimojong pastoralists move out of their districts in search of water and pasture for cattle.
Uganda is supposed to get a total of nine million doses of J&J which the government ordered through the African Union pre-ordering mechanism but the country has also received donations of over two million doses that they have been dispensed. Many of the jabs have been brought with a shelf –life of fewer than four months to expire.