Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of health has issued an order giving local governments until the end of this month to vaccinate all teachers and students above the age of 18.
According to a circular addressed to all local governments and signed by the Director General of Health Services, Dr. Henry Mwebesa dated September 17th, vaccination of teachers and students in tertiary institutions aged 18 and above needs to be carried out with haste since this will determine when learning institutions can be re-opened.
The circular comes following a high level meeting attended by President Yoweri Museveni and officials from the national COVID-19 task force. During the meeting, education and health officials presented plans for the possible re-opening of schools.
Last month, the health ministry prioritized vaccination of teachers by ring fencing 300,000 Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines to carry out vaccination among this priority group that has been reporting low vaccination uptake since March this year.
However, figures from the health ministry show that only 237,930 teachers and support staff representing 43 percent of the targeted 550,000 people in this group have received one dose of the vaccine. Only 88,825 teachers have been fully vaccinated.
Following the low uptake of the vaccine, Dr. Mwebesa is urging all COVID-19 district task forces to prioritise the vaccination of 18 year olds and above.
” I would therefore like to appeal to you to direct your District Task Force to Utilise the district structures to mobilize all teachers, non-teaching staff,support staff and students above 18 years to go for COVID-19 vaccination as a matter of urgency. Furthermore this is to request you to plan to plan and conduct targeted outreaches for this group of persons in the most accessible places before the end of September 2021,” he said.
According to Dr. Mwebesa, the low uptake of the vaccine has been caused by a series of issues which include long distances to designated vaccination sites.
Records from the health ministry show that uptake of vaccines upcountry is still low despite several efforts set up by the health ministry. According to data from the EPIVAC information system, 106 districts had vaccinated less than 70 percent of their targeted audience.
Eleven districts the worst being Terego located in the West Nile region had only used up 33.9 percent of the allocated vaccines, followed by Bunyangabo and Buvuma districts at 43 and 44 percent respectively.
Dr. Mwebesa says districts have enough vaccines to carry out vaccinations. He urges district officials to encourage people to receive the jabs. ” This is very low to allow for safe re-opening of schools. Districts have adequate stocks of vaccines to cover teachers, non-teaching and support staff,” he added.
Vaccination of priority groups is one of the main conditions that President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has insisted needs to take place before schools that were closed in March 2020 can fully re-open.
Dr. Monica Musenero, a senior presidential advisor on epidemics and also the a member of the COVID-19 task force today in an interview with Uganda Radio Network (URN) revealed that the government is trying to secure enough vaccines so that at least 4.8 million high risk people can be fully vaccinated.
According to a source from the ministry of education who preferred to remain anonymous, the vaccination of teachers and students is being prioritised because government is looking at opening up tertiary institutions in November, 2021. At the moment, only finalists in medical institutions of learning have been cleared to resume learning. Other students have been at home since June 2021.
Uganda is the only country within the East African Community whose schools are still closed due to lockdown measures instituted to forestall the spread of COVID-19.