A total of 14,460 COVID-19 vaccine doses were wasted, even as the country struggles to secure enough vaccines to inoculate its population. Uganda received 964,000 AstraZenecavaccines doses in March and has been able to vaccinate 748,676 people.
But according to the health ministry, many of the doses were wasted because vaccine vials were opened and not used. According to scientists, vaccines lose their potency and effectiveness if they are exposed to temperatures outside of the required range or when exposed to light. This implies that once a vial’s seal is punctured, workers have only a few hours to administer them.
Previously the health ministry had urged health worker to avoid wasting vaccines by ensuring that they first register enough people before they start vaccinating people. Each vial can vaccinate 10-12 people.
Dr Alfred Driwale, the head of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization-UNPEI says that most vaccines were wasted at the start of the vaccination campaign, but adds that while the figures might look big, the country’s rate of wastage is lower than the World Health Organisation’s recommend figure at 3 per cent.
Driwale attributes the wastage to poor vaccination coordination. He says often health workers opened vaccine vails without having at least 10 people present at the vaccination sites. As a result, few people were vaccinated and the remaining doses in the vials thrown away because they were not used within six hours of being opened.
This is happening at a time when millions of people still do not have access to the vaccine. One such person is Proscovia Nantume, a 39-year-old resident of Kisenyi living with HIV, who has been moving from one facility to another for the last one week, in a search for a vaccine.
“I went to Mulago and was told there are no more vaccines. Then I went to the KCCA clinic in Kisenyi but they also did not have it. I was told to go Kololo but the guards there told me they had stopped vaccinating,” she said.
According to the World Health Organization Nine in 10 African nations look set to miss the September target of vaccinating 10 per cent of their populations against COVID-19. At 32 million doses, Africa accounts for less than one per cent of the more than 2.1 billion doses administered globally. Just two per cent of the continent’s nearly 1.3 billion people have received one dose, and only 9.4 million Africans are fully vaccinated.
The WHO’s reminder that 225 million doses of vaccine are needed urgently on the continent comes as coronavirus infections increased for the third consecutive week. Africa’s 54 countries have registered nearly five million COVID-19 infections to date and numbers increased by nearly 20 per cent – to more than 88 000 – in the week ending 6 June.
Four nations have seen a 30 per cent increase in cases in the past seven days, compared with the previous week. Most of the new cases were in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia and over half were in nine southern African countries.
Vaccines have become “increasingly scarce”, the UN health agency said, adding that at the current rate of delivery, only seven African nations will meet the goal of immunizing one in 10 people by September.