KAMPALA — Ugandan authorities are planning to immunize more than 21 million people, or nearly half the population in order to put COVID-19 at bay, but procuring vaccines remains uncertain as one of the main manufacturers India is battling the raging virus at home and prioritizing domestic use.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has previously said although the country has received doses of the COVID-19 vaccines through donations, it is now considering purchasing the vaccines or even producing them locally if it could secure the necessary raw materials. In a televised update about the pandemic on Friday, Minister of Health Ruth Aceng said the government would procure an additional 11 million doses, among which 9 million are AstraZeneca and 2 million Johnson and Johnson.
“The ministry of health has concluded the initial legal requirements to procure 2 million of Johnson and Johnson vaccine through Africa Export-Import Bank and the African Union. The process is ongoing,” said Aceng.
“Legal requirements to procure 9 million doses of vaccines through the COVAX facility under the cost sharing framework have been concluded and funds have been remitted for this. So we wait for feedback on when we can receive the doses from the COVAX facility,” she said.
COVAX is a global initiative to boost the equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. She said there are ongoing talks to acquire vaccines from Cuba, Russia, China and the United Kingdom in addition to COVAX.
The Ministry of Health recently announced that this month it will receive over 882,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX.
At least 300,000 doses of China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine are also expected to arrive this month. The country last month received 175,200 AstraZeneca doses with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund and the French Embassy under COVAX.
The country in March this year received 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine via COVAX and 100,000 doses from the Indian government. As of Friday, a total of 861,645 people had received the first jab of AstraZeneca vaccine and 129,259 had gotten their second jabs, according to the ministry of health.
Health experts in Uganda accused developed nations of hoarding vaccines, which has affected the speed of vaccination in Africa.
The World Health Organization estimates that by now countries should have vaccinated 20 percent of their populations, but vaccine shortages remain.
“As you know the vaccine supply is not as ideal as we would have liked it. We have been promoting vaccine equity and fair distribution and use of vaccines,” said Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, WHO Uganda country representative.
Woldemariam said it is not fair for developed countries to deny sufficient vaccine supplies to Africa. Some developed nations overbooked vaccines even before production started, said Woldemariam.
“There are countries which have 5 million people but have ordered for 15 million vaccines,” the WHO official said. “We should all push for these countries to share their vaccines so that vaccine inequality is addressed,” Woldemariam said.