Uganda: Delayed Rollout of Second Covid Jab Causes Anxiety

Up to 77 per cent of 253,562 people, who are due for the second round of the Covid-19 vaccine, had not yet received the jab by June 18, government statistics indicate.

The second round of the vaccine increases protection for recipients from severe illness and deaths by up to 30 per cent (from 62-92 per cent), according to government scientists.

The donation of 175,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, which Uganda received on June 17 from the government of France, is not sufficient for the 812,118 people who are either due for the second dose or are nearing the eight-week time from which they should go for the second round.

President Museveni, in a televised address to the nation last Friday, said the country expects to get additional 688,000 doses of the vaccine in August, but some recipients think this will be too late.

The government launched Covid-19 vaccination on March 10, and by April 20, a total of 253,562 people had already received their first jab, according to Ministry of Health statistics.

Considering the recommendation of getting the second jab after 8 weeks, all the 253,562 were due for the second shot by June 18. But President Museveni, in a televised address to the nation on Friday, said only 57,797 had received both the first and second jab by July 18.

The few number of people who have received the second dose of the vaccine can be attributed to the Ministry of Health response strategy. Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, said on May 5 that prioritising giving the first dose of the vaccine "is more beneficial in terms of public health response" than prioritising the second dose.

"...with the first dose [of Covid-19 vaccine], there is 80-90 per cent efficiency against hospitalisation, hence protecting more people is more beneficial in terms of public health response," she said.

The minister didn't rule out continuity in administering the second dose of the vaccine but subsequent vaccination activities pointed to prioritisation of the first dose.

More than 80 per cent of people vaccinated were those who were getting their first shot although that was the last bit of the vaccine that some health workers wanted to keep for the second round.

"Our teams at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds are doing a great job. Today they vaccinated a total of 6,203, (of these) 5,416 people received the first dose, 787 people received the second dose," Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Ministry of Health spokesperson, said in a tweet on July 1.

What is at stake?

Many people who have received the first jab are worried that the strategy of prioritising giving first dose would make the jab they received "useless" given the increased risk of delaying or missing the second round.

Dr Misaki Wayengera, the head of the government Scientific Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said the first dose of the vaccine is less effective.

He said the first dose gives 60 per cent protection from the risk of severe illness and the second dose increases the protection to 92 per cent.

"It means in 100 people vaccinated against Covid-19 with Astrazeneca, only 62 will be protected by first dose and up to 92 will be by second dose," he said.

"It implies that even at second dose, some 8 people might randomly get infected and possibly even get severe disease and die. The numbers protected are less with only one dose," he added.

However, President Museveni on Friday directed the Ministry of Health to prioritise the new batch of Covid-19 vaccines to give the second round for those who already got the first jab.

Looking back

The government launched Covid-19 vaccination on March 10, and by April 20, a total of 253,562 people had already received their first jab, according to Ministry of Health statistics. Considering the recommendation of getting the second jab after 8 weeks, all the 253,562 were due for the second shot by June 18.

Source: The Monitor

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