Uganda has a population of just over a 45million. 21.9 million people are in the priority group for vaccination. Museveni had announced the partial lifting of the lockdown. However, only 1.5% (or about a 1.2million) of the target group had received the recommended vaccines. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng minister of health stated that 902,293 people had received their first jab while only 232.742 were fully vaccinated.
Uganda had received only 2,025,280 vaccines by August’s end. All donations were 1,725,280 via the COVAX scheme and 300,000 Sinovac doses.
However, Uganda has not yet reached a state where there is no coronavirus transmission. This would mean that the positivity rate drops below 5%. Although Uganda had a remarkable 19.2% positivity rate by June 8, it was still experiencing between 7-8% and 5% positivity as of July 30, because there was still active transmission at the community level.
The government was forced to make hard decisions and decided to ease restrictions on movement and trade because the economy was in crisis and there was no food for everyone.
“Literally, if the opening during the first wave was a training drill, then what we have let go of Ugandans onto, is an actively raging battlefield,” stated Dr. Misaki Wayengera who chairs Uganda’s Scientific Advisory Committee on COVID-19.
Dr. Aceng stated that the government of Uganda has a strategy to mass-vaccinate the eligible population (22million, or 49.8% of the total population) to control the pandemic and open up the economy.
The US government has pledged to donate 25 million of the 80 million vaccine doses the Biden administration has set aside for global donations to Africa. Although the exact number of vaccine doses Uganda will receive is not yet known, Uganda will certainly benefit from this donation.
According to Jessica Lapenn (US ambassador to Africa Union), “In the coming weeks, we will continue to see additional delivery to reach this 25,000,000.”
Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. John Nkengasong stated that the US government donated vaccines to help ensure that vaccination efforts continue in countries like Africa that have run out of vaccines or are close to exhausting their current doses. However, only 1.7% of Africans have been fully immunized.
The WHO warned however that the pace at which vaccines are distributed is not sufficient to reach the 10% target. Officials from Uganda’s Ministry of Health said that they anticipate another 11 million doses arriving in the country by September.
The governments of poor countries such as Uganda will not be able to meet that goal if they don’t have enough vaccines. They will need to decide to lift restrictions on lockdowns and play a deadly “hide-and-seek” game (imposing lockdowns when there are large surges and health systems become overwhelmed and then opening them up again when the devastation subsides).
This is the reality facing many countries, particularly in Africa, because of the global vaccine apartheid, and forced scarcity, engendered by rich countries hoarding dosages and protecting intellectual property rights and profits of pharmaceutical companies over the lives of the rest of the world’s people.
Many countries remain at high risk, and many are seeing higher and faster cases. “We all need to double down on preventive measures to consolidate these fragile gains,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (WHO regional director for Africa) said.
Professor David Serwadda from Uganda’s vaccine advisory committee said that it could also have social-economic effects, especially on education, and create poverty. “All these things will lead to a bad epidemic which will increase the inequity trap.” We will have a global trap if one region is vaccinated and another doesn’t …”
A combination of factors has led to vaccine inequity across the globe. These include rich countries hoarding vaccines and nationalist sentiments and fear overtaking global solidarity. Poorer countries rely on donations to buy their preferred vaccines but are not allowed to purchase them directly from the manufacturers.