Kampala – A meagre 16 per cent of health workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19 up to this date (April 26), RedPepper has learnt.
In a report issued Tuesday, the Health ministry revealed that 24,093 health workers had gotten the COVID-19 jab, hence explaining why there was public vaccine hesitancy in the country.
More than 150,000 health workers were supposed to be vaccinated in the first phase of immunization following the health ministry’s four days (since March 10, 2021) immunization plan before treating other groups. In spite of the plan, seven weeks later, less than the targeted number of health workers have gotten the jab.
Dr Alfred Driwale, the program manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization says the uptake of the vaccine has been low among all groups.
“The numbers show us that we need to go back to the ground and sensitize people about the vaccine, not just health workers but all the prioritized groups,” Driwale urged the health ministry fraternity.
According to Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the minister of health in charge of primary health care, vaccine hesitancy among health workers will frighten communities about the vaccines.
“Health workers are trusted people in communities,” she said. “People follow them. How can you expect communities to warm up to the vaccine when health workers who need it most are not getting it? The low number of health workers vaccinated is a shame and needs to be addressed.”
According to the report from the health ministry, the lowest number of vaccinated persons was security with only 1 percent of the target group so far vaccinated. Teachers, the elderly and even persons living with con morbidities all have less than 5 percent of the targeted audience vaccinated.
Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister of health attributes low numbers of people getting the COVID-19 jab to a lack of sensitization.
“For long, adults have taken their children for routine immunization,” Dr Aceng said.
“And we have registered high numbers here. But we have never vaccinated adults. So many of them need a mind shift to know that adults also can get vaccinated.”
With the second COVID-19 wave here, scientists believe the number of health workers infected might increase. Dr Misaki Wayengera, the chairperson of the ministerial COVID-19 committee says the number of infected health workers is likely to double or triple due to a mysterious behavior of vice.
“With what we are seeing, health workers will have to have a high level of suspicion with the resurgence of the disease because patients will likely not present with some of the symptoms they dealt with in the first wave,” Dr Wayengera said. “This means they will be more exposed to the disease and as a result, we are likely to see more numbers of health workers infected. Now if this happens when they are not vaccinated, it means we shall record deaths among this group.”
By April 24, 276,306 people had received the COVID-19 jab. With over 600,000 remaining vaccines that are allegedly expiring in the first week of July. Doctors are calling upon the government to build vaccine confidence in public.
Dr Frank Assimwe, from Mulago National Referral Hospital, says the government needs to take charge of the situation and provide Ugandans with information.
“The way the government is handling this issue is not good. They need to come out and talk openly about the vaccine, people who have been vaccinated and those who have not,” he said, adding:
“They need to take charge and they can do this by checking up on vaccinated people to ensure they are fine. When they keep quiet and pretend all is well, this is what you get.”