The Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine-PCV, which protects children against pneumonia and meningitis will now be available to parents in hospitals in Kampala Metropolitan area free of charge, thanks to a program rolled out by the Kampala Capital City Authority.
Prior to this program, a jab of the pneumococcal vaccine for babies in private health facilities cost 100,000 shillings.
A complete dose cost UGX 300,000 for babies aged between one to two years while one dose for babies between two to five years cost UGX 140,000 shillings.
Pneumonia and meningitis kill up to 1.8 million children below the age of five years globally every year, with more than half of these deaths in Africa.
In Uganda, these killer diseases account for the death of more than 24,000 children annually according to the World Health Organization, which also observes that preventing both diseases will contribute significantly to the reduction of infant and child mortality by 2015.
On Wednesday, Kampala Capital City Authority announced that the vaccine will be made available as part of the routine immunization schedule across the city.
Presiding over the launch of the program at Kiswa health center III in Bugolobi, a Kampala suburb, Ruth Achieng, the director general of health services called on all the personnel involved to be vigilant in protecting the vaccine arguing that unlike other vaccines, PVC was extremely sensitive to heat yet it is three times more expensive.
Achieng added that government has finalised plans to avail human papilloma-virus vaccines to prevent cervical cancer in women. Another vaccine to prevent diarrhoea in children is also expected, she added.
Lydia kusera, a mother of six welcomed the exercise, saying that pneumonia has been her biggest challenge when bringing up her children, yet the vaccine was very expensive for her.
The vaccine was made available in Uganda through funding from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), a partnership that brings together governments, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank and other key stakeholders.
GAVI has provided over USD$ 26million in vaccines and related supplies, and an additional USD$ 1.34million to support operational costs around introduction of the vaccine including training, social mobilization, cold chain maintenance and supervision.