Kampala, Uganda | URN | Members of the Health Committee of Parliament want financially stable Ugandans to pay for COVID-19 vaccine, and let the government allocation go to the less privileged and most vulnerable communities.
The Ministry of Health announced earlier that it has placed an order for 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca Vaccine from the Serum Institute of India which will be used to vaccinate persons aged 50 and above, those with underlying health conditions, health workers, security personnel, and teachers, among other essential services providers.
The COVAX Facility, which is managed by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations [GAVI], has already allocated 3.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Uganda, which are expected into the country by the end of the month.
Under the arrangement, each eligible individual is expected to receive two doses of the vaccine, separated by 28 days. Each dose will cost USD 7 (25,523 Shillings), which amounts to USD 14 (51,046 Shillings) per person.
Another USD 3 (11,000 Shillings) is charged for international transportation and handling costs by the National Medical Stores [NMS], pushing the cost of the vaccine to USD 17 (62,000 Shillings).
But as the vaccines are awaited, the MPs are suggesting that the government should not meet the cost of vaccination for people who can afford. Instead, they say, the government should provide the service for those who can prove that they cannot afford to pay for COVID-19 vaccine.
Rwampara County MP Charles Ngabirano says that since the estimated cost of the vaccine is affordable for the working Ugandans and its less than the current charge for a COVID-19 test.
Similarly, Richard Okot Othieno, the MP for West Budama North constituency says there’s no reason why the government should spend money procuring vaccines for people who can afford to pay for them.
The vice-chairperson of the committee, Patrick Isiagi Opolot, says that allowing a window for others to pay for the vaccines will enable the government to raise more funds to procure more vaccines.
“Even when you walk into a government hospital, you find a private wing where you pay money and also a place where you can get free treatment. If the government can do this with serious control, this would be good because I do not think that MPs and big salary earners like Permanent Secretaries are vulnerable. Those ones should be able to pay,” he said.
The MPs also asked the Health Ministry to set up a donation drive or campaign to encourage people to donate money. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the private sector contributed over Shs 21 billion towards the country’s response to the disease.
Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health says that government is planning to bring the private sector on board to provide vaccines for those who can’t afford. She, however, says that this will only be possible after the government has completed the nationwide vaccination.
Before the vaccine is used, Aceng says they will have to first receive approval from the World Health Organization [WHO] and the National Drug Authority [NDA]. So far, none of the organizations has approved the use of the vaccine.