Uganda launches first phase of COVID-19 vaccination exercise

“I am so happy that as of today, I am protected!” says Dr. Prossy Namusisi one of the health workers vaccinated at the launch ceremony.

By Joachim Buwembo
UCO Rep being vaccinated
© UNICEF/UN0428578/Bongyereirwe
11 March 2021

Exactly one year since the first Covid-19 case was identified in Uganda, the country has launched its vaccination exercise that will ultimately have the critical percentage of all citizens, residents and refugees get the jab.

The Wednesday morning March 10th launch at the Mulago National Referral Hospital complex in Kampala was held in mood of excitement and determination, that saw the UNICEF Representative, Dr. Munir Safieldin dispense with the traditional protocols when called to speak, and first proclaimed the COVID-19 vaccination clarion call that “Covax vaccines are safe, the vaccines save lives”, before addressing the gatherings ceremony.

The approach was adopted by other speakers who came after him, for unlike sensitization on measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus that found an anxiously willing public, making Ugandans accept vaccines has always required extra effort.

Indeed, eminent doctors who rendered distinguished public service some of whom are retired, had been invited and were on hand to take the jab publicly to reassure the public of the safety of the vaccine.

But the timeliness of the vaccine exercise is best appreciated and expressed by the people directly exposed to the danger of the virus everyday – the health workers in the designated Covid-19 treatment facilities.

Dr. Prossy Namusisi, a general practitioner at Mulago Hospital who has been treating Covid-19 patients for a year now discloses that the fear of getting infected, but worst of all taking the infection to her family has all along been constantly on her mind.

“For me the worst moments of the past one year have been having to return home to my family at the end of the long shifts and fearing that I could be going to infect them,”

Dr. Namusisi makes the disturbing disclosure

In a sharp reminder that doctors are also human, Dr. Namusisi says, “Every time you watch a patient you have been struggling to save gasping for breath yet they are on oxygen, and they literally drown as they ‘fail to breathe their last,’ you cannot suppress the fear that however much personal protective equipment you have, you could have contracted from them.”

With obvious relief she says, “I am so happy that as of today, I am protected!”

So crucial to the country are the vaccines that the First Deputy Prime Minister General Moses Ali who presided over the launch ceremony announced that the entire consignment that is being distributed countrywide was being placed under the tight guard of the national security services.

 The first 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that been secured courtesy of the COVAX facility, arrived in the country on the 5th of March 2021. COVAX allocated 3,552,000 doses to Uganda. The remaining doses are expected in the country by June 2021.

Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, who was the first Ugandan to take the jab, outlined the schedule to be followed in administering the vaccine, starting with the health workers – both in public and private facilities - and all their support personnel, numbering to 150,000.

The health workers will be followed immediately by security personnel of all categories numbering to 250,000.

Teachers and staff in all education institutions - public and private not-for-profit, as well as private for-profit will follow and these are estimated to have 550,000 persons.

The next category to get the vaccines will be the essential service workers who interact with many people by the nature of their work. Thereafter all persons aged 50 years and above in the country will the vaccinated. These are about 3.3 million in number.

Uganda's Health Minister
© UNICEF/UN0428597/Bongyereirwe