More Ugandans Turn Up for COVID-19 Vaccinations

Uganda has resumed mass vaccinations against COVID-19 after running out of doses in June. But even with less vaccine hesitancy, essential workers say the rate of vaccination is too slow.

Two health workers share a table facing a long line of Ugandans waiting to receive a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Many are here for their second shots and the officials have to check the system, to see if they qualify for it.

Seventeen-year-old Kawalya Paul is among those standing in line as he waits for his card to be verified and stamped.

Even though he is not on the priority list of those to be vaccinated, Paul explains to VOA why he decided to come.

“Actually, my mom’s boss, succumbed to Covid. Every time he was all very protective. He could not talk to you in case you’re not putting on a mask. So, I was like, if he was able to get it, yet he‘s a doctor and a big man, I was like, what about me, why shouldn’t I? Because I saw the virus was close,” he said.

The priority list for vaccinations includes teachers, security personnel, health workers, the elderly – who are defined as people over 50 years old – and those between 18 and 50 with underlying health conditions.

At the end of July, Ugandan authorities received 1.72 million doses of vaccine, and are hoping to get another 11 million in September.

The pace of vaccination remains slow. So far only about 1.1 million Ugandans have been inoculated.

But, officials are hopeful that Ugandans are now eager to get the vaccine and have opened up vaccination centers at Kampala’s Capital City grounds and the Namboole National stadium.

Pius Okethwengu, the Namboole hospital administrator, said they are seeing a large turnout of people at the stadium. He predicts the goal of inoculating 10,000 people this week will be surpassed.

“We are having this activity, starting today, in the next five days, to be able to have attended to all these clients that we are looking for. But, with the response that we are seeing, we are estimating that actually we should be able to even exceed that. And the beauty is, the vaccines are there and, we should be able to give the services to the people,” he said.

The vaccination drive is raising hope that authorities will lift the restrictions on schools, public transportation and religious institutions imposed last month amid a new wave of coronavirus cases.

The minister of education said on July 30 that schools could reopen if all children between the ages of 12 and 18 are inoculated.

Othieno Leonard, a secondary school teacher, does not expect to see educational facilities reopen any time soon.

“I don’t think so. I really feel, given the pace at which they are vaccinating, it is going to take us way longer to put us in a situation where we can call it normal. So, for now, I don’t have hope that they can open soon,” said Leonard.

The Ministry of Health says about seven million children would need to be vaccinated before classes can resume.

Source: Voice of America