The ministry of health has said that Uganda’s application to access the Covid-19 vaccine that’s already in circulation and accepted by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dr. Diana Atwine, the ministry’s permanent secretary, says Uganda will access the vaccine from AstraZeneca, the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company.
“Uganda will participate in the Global COVAX initiative for COVID -19 vaccine access and has already submitted an application to this effect, which has been accepted by the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI),” Dr. Atwine said in a statement.
“Based on the evidence available and the recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Health, Uganda will access the vaccine from AstraZeneca.”
The development follows a January 2 meeting of the National Task Force on COVID-19 chaired by President Museveni at State House, Entebbe.
At the time of the meeting, the East African nation had seen a surge in reported cases of COVID-19, with over 22,000 cases recorded during the last three months.
“There is an urgent need to access the COVID-19 vaccine for the people of Uganda, not only as a mitigating strategy against severe disease and deaths but also a public health measure to enable a safe return to normalcy,” the permanent secretary said.
According to Dr. Atwine, Uganda will also explore other traditional vaccine options such as the one from China, when they receive approval from the World Health Organization.
Once acquired, the access to the vaccine will be done in an equitable manner starting with the most vulnerable and those at more risk.
“The meeting directed the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health to initiate preparation to ensure readiness to receive and expeditiously distribute the vaccine to the population,” reads the statement.
The statement doesn’t indicate when the vaccine will arrive in the country but the government had earlier said that the first batch was expected to be shipped by May or June 2021. Uganda is currently in the "critical stage" in the fight against the respiratory illness and the health ministry believes there are more people dying from the diseases than being recorded.
"The ministry of health estimates that there are even more unknown Covid-19 deaths happening in the community before reaching the health centers," Judith Nabakooba, the ICT and National Guidance Minister, recently said.
According to Nabakooba, the number of critically ill people that need oxygen on a 24-hour basis has exceeded the available capacity and the government spends about Shs22 million on every critically ill Covid patient that is admitted on oxygen.
In private hospitals, these types of patients are spending Shs5 million daily.
"Everyone must therefore understand the Covid-19 is not a cheap disease," the minister said, adding: "going by the costs, it is obvious that majority of Ugandans cannot afford this treatment."
She also revealed that once admitted to the High Dependency and Intensive Care Units, the chances of survival are less than 50%.