Health workers that are not yet vaccinated have made the choice not to get COVID-19 jabs, and the government does not have any special arrangement for their vaccination.
As of today, according to Ministry of Health data, only 47,165 out of an estimated 150,000 health workers have been fully vaccinated countrywide despite them being the first lot for the government to prioritize for vaccination when the jabs first arrived in the country early in March.
Dr Alfred Driwale, the Programme Manager Expanded Programme on Immunization at the Ministry of Health (MOH) says that they have so far vaccinated more teachers and elderly people of 50 years and above than health workers.
In order to bring more health workers on board, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) had proposed that the Ministry of Health should Ringfence does for the vaccination of health workers as one of the ways for tackling vaccine hesitancy.
UMA president, Dr Richard Idro said this was thought to be one of the strategies for the government to reach as many of them as possible.
But Dr Driwale said that health workers had all the opportunities to get the jab since they were categorised as a priority group and disregarded calls to ring-fence doses for health workers. He confirms that 387,135 Ugandans have now fully been vaccinated with two doses.
Dr Driwale noted that vaccines are being supplied through local governments and that they have already received complaints from hospitals that some medical workers are holding a solidarity move urging their colleagues not to get vaccinated.
He said the habit is mostly prevalent in Kampala and among some very high profile doctors.
The move to ring-fence doses for vaccination of key the population was recently seen among teachers who were allocated special places within the city by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) where they can exclusively access their jabs. By Friday, 70,241 teachers had been fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, as pockets of health workers remain hesitant to get vaccinated, Dr Andrew Kambugu who chairs the health workforce committee on the COVID-19 National Taskforce warns them to beware that emerging evidence that shows that unvaccinated people don’t stop at only being at risk of falling critically ill with COVID-19.
He says they now know that the unvaccinated are also more at risk of suffering from severe forms of long-term COVID syndromes where an individual clears COVID-19 but may suffer severe organ damage.
The COVID-19 task force in Lyantonde district is investigating health workers who refused to take the COVID-19 jab.
Lyantonde Resident District Commissioner Catherine Kamwine says that the task force was perturbed to learn that the people who administer the COVID-19 vaccine weren’t vaccinated, yet they were classified as a priority group because of their frontline work.
Kamwine tasked the District Health Officer to compile a list of the health workers who received their jabs as well as those who refused.
She explains that the ongoing investigations will help the task force to establish why the health workers are opposed to taking the vaccine yet they are the most vulnerable in line of their duty.
In Lyantonde District, the Chairman Fred Muhangi says that they are working with the police and other departments to investigate the matter.
He adds that they want the vaccination of health workers to be compulsory as the government has done to teachers, school administrators and other staff.
Dr Moses Nkanika, the Lyantonde District Health Officer says that there may be some who deliberately refused to take the jabs for unknown reasons.
He adds that they intend to meet the health workers to establish why they refused the vaccine and them help them to understand that the vaccine is safe.
However, a female nurse at Lyantonde General Hospital, who declined to be named to protect her job, says she could not trust the AstraZeneca vaccine after other countries suspended its use.
She adds that she was scared after reading a lot of information, especially on social media about vaccinations especially the possible side-effects including blood clots, impotence barrenness and the like, gave me a second thought about the vaccine.
Lyantonde has registered over 140 positive cases in the first wave and 312 in the second wave of which 20 were health workers, according to Dr Nkanika.
In terms of general vaccine stocks, Driwale says that they have enough to cover all health workers and they expect a big flow of doses in September.
Starting then, the country will be receiving in batches the 9 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccines. In October, they will again start receiving the 18 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China which will be accessed through the COVAX facility.