Distribution problems, hesitation Slow vaccination supply in Uganda – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel

The Phase 1/2/3 trial originally enrolled up to 4,500 children aged 6 months to 11 years from more than 90 clinical study centers in the United States, Finland, Poland and Spain. (File photo)

A light bulb hung from the ceiling blinked, and a technician in this remote Uganda town checked a refrigerator filled with vaccine doses to make sure it was still working.

He said he would have to request fuel and start the generator if the power supply wasn’t stable.

“It turns on and off like a disco light,” says engineer Tony Elong. “That is our biggest problem…. If I’m not here and the power goes out for hours, I can lose my vaccine. I need a prompt answer. “

Power outages are widespread in Guru District in northern Uganda. For Elong, the problem is urgent. Two refrigerators were destroyed by a power failure this year. This is one of the many logistical issues that health officials are facing in expanding COVID-19 vaccination to rural areas, as significant quantities have landed in countries that previously lacked vaccines.

Guru, home to 325,000 people, has been vaccinated about 9,000 times and only 2,795 have been fully vaccinated. By September 23, the area had received 30 cans of AstraZeneca and 300 cans of Chinese-made Sinovac. This is an artificial shortage in countries where millions of vaccine stocks are increasing.

Recently, Uganda received more than 2.2 million cans from the United States, including Pfizer and Moderna, and 985,000 AstraZeneca shots from France, Belgium and Ireland.

President Yoweri Museveni said last week that Uganda is expected to receive a total of 11,978,840 cans (donations and purchases by the African Union) by December. Uganda’s central warehouse near the capital, Kampala, can only store Pfizer vaccine 5 million times, which requires ultra-low temperatures, and in some rural areas like Guru to process Pfizer or Moderna shots. Not equipped.

As the supply increases, the authorities are trying to arouse enthusiasm for vaccines in rural areas, where many prefer to wait for safety reasons.

John Nkengasong, head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week that some African countries like Rwanda and Zimbabwe are “on track” to use vaccines while others like Uganda are struggling. , Authorities seek help from community and religious leaders.

Africa’s health system is one of the poorest countries in the world and suffers from a chronic shortage of essentials, corruption and an unmotivated workforce. In Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, these challenges are exacerbated by instability and the distribution of vaccines in rural areas, particularly in the unstable north of the country, is dysfunctional due to the threat of violence. I am. Of the 200 million people in Nigeria, only 3% received the first dose.

In Uganda, a country of 44 million people in East Africa, authorities have stepped up vaccinations in the Kampala area, but in rural areas like Guru, efforts have stagnated significantly due to distribution issues such as hesitation and cooling. ..

Last week, Museveni said rural authorities face layoffs if the vaccine expires under surveillance.

“We’re literally dancing around,” said Dr. Misaki Weiengera, head of the Uganda Pandemic Response Commission, on the slow deployment of the vaccine.

The government distributes the cans to the district based on expectations of demand and supplies will not be replenished until authorities declare the previously received cans.

As a result, there may be bottlenecks due to delays in reporting vaccination dates.

“The demand is there,” said Dr. Kenneth Kanna. “But what is worrying now is the availability of vaccines in both urban and rural areas.”

Associated Press journalists have arrived in a remote area of ​​Guru where a waterless health center in the district last served AstraZeneca 30 times. The vial contains 7 doses to be considered, so the vaccine will not be given until 7 people are in line. People come and go without taking a stab.

“If there aren’t a lot of people around, you can’t open the vial. If you don’t have a lot of people, you’re wasting the vaccine, ”said Okello Labedo, a clinician at the Awach Health Center, through a frayed mask. “The turnout of older people is very low. I think it’s the distance. “

Amos Okero, a farmer who had waited for hours under a mango tree, expressed disappointment that he had returned home after a mile-long ride on a rental bike with no shot.

“They said, ‘If you come alone, you can’t get the vaccine,'” Okero said. “I can’t force anyone out of their house to come here and get vaccinated.”

“The vaccination is important to me, but it may not come back tomorrow,” he added.

Guru’s commodities trader Patrick Ocott, who received his first AstraZeneca shot in May, said he was considering traveling to another district for his second shot but was disappointed with the cost. Rice field.

“You can go there and you will find they don’t have a vaccine either,” he said.

Uganda’s goal is to vaccinate 4.8 million of the most vulnerable people, including those over 50, but official statistics show 348,000 have been fully vaccinated so far. And only 37% of the country’s 150,000 health care workers are fully vaccinated, and authorities have started vaccinating students and others to prevent the dose from spilling. Is emphasized.

Authorities warn that schools will not reopen until all teachers and staff are fully vaccinated. Still, many have hoped for no dose, stressing their hesitation after reports of rare blood clots in a small number of people receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The pressure brings them with them,” said Lily Apio, a nurse who is in charge of vaccinations at the Iwee Health Center just outside Guru Town.

Alfred Akena, a school teacher waiting for the Sinovac vaccine, said he was forced to give an injection by government orders but told his wife not to do so for safety reasons.

“They put us under pressure, so I got the vaccine today,” he said. “I said to my wife, ‘Let me go first.’ She takes care of my children when the worst happens. “

That view was echoed by college student Onen Richard, who said he did not believe that vaccinations were “like school rules and regulations” in his “best interests”.

That morning, after six men signed the informed consent form, Apio informed them that only five doses of Sinovac were available.

One of the men got up immediately and left.

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