KAMPALA – In June 2022, the minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng revealed that close to 1.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were on the verge of expiry if they remained unused by end of August. This was in addition to 2.6 million that had already expired.
The cases of vaccine hesitancy in the country remain high which is attributed to vaccination apathy and misinformation campaigns that scare away people from the vaccination exercise.
In January this year, Aceng said the vaccines that had been supplied to the northern part of Uganda were not used which led to the destruction of over 400,000 doses due to expiration.
According to the study done by Makerere University with funding from the government of Uganda, COVID-19 Vaccine acceptance and uptake in Uganda has had major pitfalls, with the most prominent being Vaccine hesitancy.
The survey intended at examining the preparedness of the general population and special target population to accept and uptake the COVID-19 vaccine. It also wanted to explore the demographic and socio-economic factors associated with uptake and acceptance to receive a COVID-19 vaccination but also to assess the community perceptions and barriers towards the accelerated COVID-19 vaccine uptake.
According to Makerere’s Dr. Kabagenyi Allen, Principal Investigator, vaccine hesitancy is a major public concern causing drawbacks in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
She notes that with the new and severe COVID-19 variants emerging, hesitancy allows coronavirus to spread in the community, potentially damaging the public health systems.
The study which was carried out in the districts of Mukono and Kiboga (Central), Kumi and Soroti (Eastern), Gulu and Amuru (Northern), Mbarara and Sheema (Southern) indicates that 6 out of 10 Ugandans were not, and unwilling to get vaccinated.
Also, data shows that the majority preferred single-jab vaccines to those with multiple doses.
“Distance to vaccination points and low awareness of COVID-19 vaccines could be contributing to low uptake among the target population.”
Dr. Kabagenyi noted that 226 of the participants were a special target population of Health workers, teachers, security personnel, older members, and workers under risky environments but still a good number of these (who would set examples) were not willing to be vaccinated.
Study attributes the hesitancy to limited awareness and knowledge about COVID 19 vaccine and misinformation.
“This also poses a threat to other SDGs 1,2 and 10 that is ending poverty, reducing hunger, and reducing inequalities respectively.”
The study recommends as follows;
- Communication strategies need to target the demographic profile of the unvaccinated by using non-governmental personalities and influencers (Celebrities and local Muscians).
- Strategies should consider the risk to vulnerable groups and, in respect of younger and unemployed persons, create infotainment products that might reach this audience.
- Vaccination tracking is necessary to determine if strategies are working and it is therefore suggested that this exercise be repeated in another year if the issue continues to be relevant.
- Use the studies’ findings to inform contextualized vaccination programs and information-sharing, ultimately resulting in increased confidence in and uptake of the available vaccines.
- Further studies on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and hesitancy should be a priority.
Led by Dr. Kabagenyi Allen (PhD), the study was done by Prof. Peter Waiswa (PhD), Betty Kivumbi Nannyonga (PhD), Ronald Wasswa (MSTAT), Evelyne Nyachwo (MPH), Atek Kagirita (MPH), Agnes Kiragga (PhD), and Prof. Leonard Atuhaire (PhD)