Uganda is currently battling with five deadly variants in the second wave of the pandemic that has caused a surge in Covid-19 cases in the last two months.
This was confirmed by Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng in a press briefing on Friday that Uganda was dealing with five major variants and that COVID-19 transmission was “very aggressive”.
According to Aceng, the variants registered in Uganda include Delta (B.1.617.2 first identified in India), Eta (B.1.525), Beta (B.1.351 from South Africa), Alpha (B.1.117 identified in the UK) and the local strain, which she identified as B.1.617. These strains are on the rise and are fueling the transmission, according to Aceng.
“We have started a robust intervention in the communities. We are handing the pandemic back to the community to take it up themselves and ensure that everybody adheres to [standard operating procedures] and account for all the infected, more research is being conducted into how the variants are spreading”Aceng Said.
Last week, the WHO warned of a third wave of the pandemic across Africa, with 90% of countries likely to miss the global vaccination target of at least 10% of their populations by September.
The new vaccine doses delivered on Wednesday brings the total number of COVID-19 doses received in the country to 1,139,200. Uganda’s first two batches, totalling 964,000 doses, arrived in the country in March and are expected to expire by 10 July.
By 15 June, over 812,000 people including health workers, teachers, security personnel, airport staff, the elderly and people with diabetes, hypertension and other underlying conditions had been vaccinated.
However, Aceng said that health workers, teachers and all those who got a first shot will be prioritized to get their second shots, as the demand for vaccines rises among the public.
Out of the targeted 160,000 registered health workers in the country only 69,000 have been fully vaccinated according to the Ministry of Health. President Yoweri Museveni recently decreed that all teachers should be vaccinated before being allowed back in the class.
“Vaccine hesitancy was real at the beginning and we opened up beyond the categories we wanted to target, but now we have more demand than we can meet. Many people are now rushing to get vaccinated,” presidential adviser on epidemics Dr Monica Musenero told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday.
Last week, 14,460 COVID-19 vaccine doses went to waste as they were opened, but not used. Scientists say vaccines lose their potency and effectiveness if they are exposed to temperatures outside of the required range or when exposed to light.
Once a vial’s seal is punctured, workers have only six hours within which to administer the vaccine. Each vial can vaccinate 10 to 12 people.
Catherine Makumbi Ntabadde, UNICEF’s country communication specialist, said Uganda is expected to receive another batch of 688,000 vaccine doses in August, which will also be administered as a second jab. The country aims to vaccinate 21 million people in a phased manner.