With more doses, Uganda takes vaccination drive to market

Kampala, Sep 11 (AP):

At a taxi stand by a bustling market in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, traders simply cross a road or two, get a shot in the arm and rush back to their work. Until this week, vaccination centers were based mostly in hospitals in this East African country that faced a brutal COVID-19 surge earlier this year. Now, more than a dozen tented sites have been set up in busy areas to make it easier to get inoculated in Kampala as health authorities team up with the Red Cross to administer more than 120,000 doses that will expire at the end of September.
All of this we could have done earlier, but we were not assured of availability of vaccines, said Dr. Misaki Wayengera, who leads a team of scientists advising authorities on the pandemic response, speaking of vaccination spots in downtown areas. Right now we are receiving more vaccines and we have to deploy them as much as possible.
In addition to the 128,000 AstraZeneca doses donated by Norway at the end of August, the United Kingdom last month donated nearly 300,000 doses.
China recently donated 300,000 doses of its Sinovac vaccine, and on Monday a batch of 647,000 Moderna doses donated by the United States arrived in Uganda.
Suddenly Uganda must accelerate its vaccination drive. The country has sometimes struggled with hesitancy as some question the safety of the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine, which is no longer in use in Norway because of concerns over unusual blood clots in a small number of people who received it.
Africa has fully vaccinated just 3.1 per cent of its 1.3 billion people, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public health officials across Africa have complained loudly of vaccine inequality and what they see as hoarding in some rich countries.
Soon hundreds of millions of vaccine doses will be delivered to Africa through donations of excess doses by wealthy nations or purchases by the African Union.
Africa is aiming to vaccinate 60 per cent of the continent’s population by the end of 2022, a steep target given the global demand for doses.
The African Union, representing the continent’s 54 countries, has ordered 400 million Johnson & Johnson doses, but the distribution of those doses will be spread out over 12 months because there simply isn’t enough supply.
COVAX, the UN-backed program which aims to get vaccines to the neediest people in the world, said this week that its efforts continue “to be hampered by export bans, the prioritisation of bilateral deals by manufacturers and countries, ongoing challenges in scaling up production by some key producers, and delays in filing for regulatory approval.
Uganda, a country of more than 44 million people, has recorded more than 120,000 cases of COVID-19, including just over 3,000 deaths, according to official figures.

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