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WHO ASSURE UGANDANS: COVID19 VACCINE IS VERY SECURE & SAFE

By Isaac Wandubile

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have allayed fears of Ugandans over the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine launched in the country on March 10, 2021.

Speaking at the launch of the Covid-19 vaccination exercise in Kampala last Wednesday, WHO Representative in Uganda, Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam and UNICEF Representative to Uganda, Dr. Munir Safieldin took time to assuage Ugandans’ fears that Covid-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca, is not efficacious for human administration.

“In the middle of last year, we realized that this new virus is really difficult to deal with if we have to bring in new diagnostics, new therapeutics and new vaccines. So, a movement was created known as the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, to accelerate the three branches of tools to be available for everyone in an equitable way. And part of this vaccine component of this ACT is known as Covax Facility, a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of eventual Covid-19 vaccines,” explained Dr. Woldemariam.

He added: “Covax was initiated and coordinated by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), the WHO and the UNICEF has been a partner to ensure that we have the vaccine. The Covax Facility with support from governments, intergovernmental bodies and philanthropic organisations have been able to fund the development of vaccines such as AstraZeneca and there are others.”

Dr. Woldemariam said there are more than 279 vaccine researches going on and that 74 of them are in clinical trials, although only two of them have been licensed for use by WHO and two others have also been licensed by major regulatory authorities.

“Currently, there are almost 300 million people who have received these vaccines and we haven’t seen any major adverse effects. And that is a proof that these vaccines are safe. These vaccines have also already started showing how we shall reopen the economies, how we will go back into normal situation as we know it, although it might be changed a bit,” said Dr. Woldemariam.

The WHO chief further noted that over 2 billion doses of the vaccines have been secured and the aim is that Covax Facility will ensure 20% of any country is vaccinated before the end of 2021. He said that in addition to that, governments, philanthropic organisations and international development partners have also invested in ensuring and supporting countries to go beyond the 20% so that they reach a global parity immunity.

“And as this is going on, I would like to congratulate the Government of Uganda for already committing to increase beyond the 20% to 40% by investing additional funds from the Government by procuring 18 million doses. Your contribution is not only for Ugandans. By ensuring that Ugandans are safe is also contributing to global safety,” said Dr. Woldemariam.

He said before the vaccines are licensed, they go through rigorous regulatory processes. That the researches are examined again and again by independent researchers and institutions and it is only after that that the vaccines are made available to the public.

“And it is important that every eligible person gets vaccinated. The reason is twofold. One is that the sooner we reach there; the sooner the economies will get to semi-normal or normal. The other is that this virus is one of the fastest changing viruses. Variants have started coming out. And the more variants come, the more it will be difficult for the vaccine to be effective. Currently this vaccine is effective for all and is also good for anybody above the age of 18 and it protects and ensures that the person who is vaccinated does not have severe disease and does not die from this disease,” he explained.

He noted that to ensure that the virus does not mutate into another form which is difficult to control, it has to be deprived of its capacity to multiply by making sure that the vast majority of the population is vaccinated.

“So beyond protecting yourself, you are also protecting your neighbor, your loved ones, your community, your country and in a way, you are protecting humanity. So please, be vaccinated,” added Dr. Woldemariam.

On his part, the UNICEF boss said the Covid-19 vaccines are safe and they save lives. Dr. Safieldin said despite the harrowing impact of the virus to humanity, there has been light at the end of the tunnel.

“With technology, science and commitment of scientists, we have a vaccine that has been developed very safely, very effectively and in the shortest possible time in humanity’s history. This vaccine would not have been available for us here in Uganda today without the commitment and the generous contributions of members of the Covax Facility. These are companies, institutions and individuals who took upon themselves the responsibility to make sure that access to the Covid-19 vaccine is equitable; it reaches everyone around the globe and at the same time it reaches us here today,” explained Dr. Safieldin.

The First Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Moses Ali, to presided over the launch of the national vaccination exercise, said Uganda recorded the first Covid-19 case on March 21, 2020 and since then, over 40, 000 cases and 344 Covid-19 deaths have been recorded in the country. However, Mr. Ali warned that despite the number of confirmed cases dropping significantly in January and February, experts have said that there is likely to a second wave of Covid-19 infections in about three to four months’ time.

“The launch of the vaccination against Covid-19 in Uganda therefore is timely to protect the country against the anticipated second wave. The exercise will take place in all districts starting with the health workers, followed by all other vulnerable groups as it has been elaborated by the Ministry of Health,” said Mr. Ali.

The First Deputy Premier said with the guidance from scientists and the Ministry of Health, the Cabinet approved the use of AstraZeneca vaccine that is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. He explained that this is because the vaccine can be stored and transported in cold chain facilities available in Uganda’s vaccination programme at 2 to 8 degree centigrade, unlike the other Covid-19 vaccine so far approved by the WHO.

“The recent immunization of 19 million people against measles and rubella within two weeks of October 2020 is testimony of our capacity in this regard. It is this robust system and infrastructure that we are going to utilize to vaccinate our people against Covid-19. Government targets to vaccinate about 22 million people from 18 years and above (about 49.6% of our population) against Covid-19. This will be done in a phased manner starting with the most at risk staff of essential services and vulnerable populations by age-groups,” said Mr. Ali.(For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at mulengera2040@gmail.com).

See more in the following pictures taken from the launch by Isaac Wandubile.

Dr. Yonas Tegeg woldemariam, the WHO representative.

M. Munir A. Safieldin, the Rep of UNICEF.

Dr. Janos Terenyi from Hungary.

Rudi Veestraeten, the Belgian Amb to Uganda.

A. Ajay Kumar, the Indian High Commissioner to Uganda.

Dr. Maggie Kigozi getting vaccinated

Minister Robina Nabanja gets her share

The MoH PS Dr. Diana Atwine has been very enthusiastic in her technical leadership of the sector.

Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health, leading from the front and by example as always.

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