The first batch of 196,800 doses of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines bought by the government was flown in to the country on Thursday.
These are part of the nine million doses of the single shot vaccine that were sourced through the African Union.
Uganda first placed an order for two million doses, but later added an extra seven million with American pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson.
The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine, who officially received the doses at Entebbe International Airport, said government has spent Shs290 billion on the vaccines that she said will enhance the ongoing mass vaccination campaign across the country.
Uganda has pegged its return to normalcy, including the reopening of schools, on vaccination.
“Government has ordered a total of nine million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines through the African Union (AU) / African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) initiative to the tune of Shs290b to vaccinate nine million people. These vaccines will be delivered in a phased manner to support the ongoing mass COVID-19 vaccination programme,” she said.
Dr Atwine said government has released a total of Shs120 billion to the ministry and National Medical Stores (NMS) for the procurement and handling of Covid vaccines.
“A total of Shs55.8b was disbursed as down payment to access the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Additionally, Shs50.4b has been released to procure more than two million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine expected early December as part of the order of more than 17.8 million doses that Uganda placed with Covax facility,” she said.
She said the ministry is in the process of transferring the remaining funds as the vaccines are received. Government, as per the Budget Speech for Financial Year 2020/2021, set aside Shs500 billion for the procurement of vaccines.
Dr Atwine said the single-dose shot will be administered to the priority population groups who have not received any Covid-19 vaccine to-date.
The priority groups include health workers, teachers, security personnel, and persons above 50 years, as well as those with comorbidities.
Until the arrival of the batch, the country has relied on donations from global vaccine sharing facility, Covax, as well as from countries, including the US, UK, India, France, Norway and China.
“To-date, we have received 5,690,363 doses of Covid-19 vaccines comprising AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Moderna, Pfizer and now Johnson and Johnson. Of these, 2,282,414 doses have been administered while 2,080,594 are currently being distributed countrywide. Of the administered doses, 1,704,279 people have received their 1st dose and 578,135 people have got their 2nd dose” she said.
The regional chief operating officer of Afreximbank, Mr Kudakwashe Matereke, said the AVAT initiative is a huge step in African countries’ efforts to safeguard the health and well-being of their people.
“By working together, pooling resources, African countries have been able to secure millions of vaccine doses produced right here in Africa. This will provide impetus to the fight against Covid-19 across the continent and will lay the basis for Africa’s social and economic recovery,” he said.
Mr Matereke said monthly shipments will continue with a target of delivering almost 50 million vaccines to African countries before the end of December.
“By January, the number of vaccines being released will be in excess of 25m per month. Uganda has made an order of a total of 9 million doses of which 196,800 doses have been delivered today, being the first of monthly deliveries to be made until 2023” he said.
The remaining doses of the vaccines are expected still within this quarter before the year ends. Dates for arrival of the vaccines have been changing since July, when the Health minister said some doses were expected in August.
As of October 5, government had administered 2.206,221 doss of the vaccines. The country is targeting to inoculate 21.9 million adult Ugandans
As per her last status update on the pandemic in August, the Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, said 18 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine for nine million people, also paid for by government through vaccine body GAVI are expected to arrive in phases beginning this month.
Ms Sheila Nduhukire, the NMS spokesperson, said they have the capacity to store the vaccines.