People at low risk of COVID-19 infection more willing to get jab

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Residents of Gulu are embracing the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Thirty-one-year-old Henry Muwanguzi is a resident of Kiwatule, a Kampala city suburb. He got his COVID-19 jab last week. Muwanguzi is neither a doctor nor a teacher. He does not suffer from any comorbidity.

He enjoys singing and exercises four times a week. He is the true definition of a 30-year-old looking healthy man. Muwanguzi told this publication that he looked for a place where he could get the COVID-19 shot.

“In April I went to Mulago, Victoria Hospital and even KCCA, Kisenyi hoping to get vaccinated but no place would give me the vaccine. They all said that I was not among those designated to get the vaccine in the first phase of the exercise,” he said.

The first phase, according to the Health Ministry targeted persons at high risk of getting infected with COVID-19.  These included health workers, teachers, security personnel, persons with comorbidities and those aged 50 years and above.

According to the health ministry’s plan, Muwanguzi would be among the last groups of people to get vaccinated. However, Muwanguzi fluked and got the jab when the vaccination team visited DFCU bank where he had gone to visit a friend.

Despite being outside the targeted category, Muwanguzi says that he decided to get the jab well knowing that it is the only way he could stay safe from COVID-19 infection.

According to Muwanguzi, he is not alone. Eight of his family members have also gotten the jab. But only two of them fit the government’s priority list since they are over 50 years. However, according to the ministry, people like Muwanguzi are more eager to get the vaccine compared to those in the priority groups.

As of May 27, 2021, over 250,000 people who are not part of the priority group had been vaccinated. The total number of people who have been vaccinated nationwide stood at 577,036 as of May 27, 2021. Dr Alfred Driwale, the programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization (UNEPI) says that more people in this group appreciate the vaccine more compared to the target group.

Due to the high demand from people in this group, Dr. Driwale says the health ministry is now offering vaccination to whoever shows up. “We have received requests from some groups of people who want the vaccine. We have received requests from bankers, lawyers and even truck drivers,” he said.

Also, the health ministry has opened up vaccination to all groups. All persons interested in the jab just need to go to the Kololo Independence Grounds to get it. COVID-19 vaccination is associated with a number of side effects which according to the health ministry has contributed to the poor uptake among the target group.

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Some of the associated side effects are; soreness at the injection site, headache, fever, tiredness, and joint pain in some cases. Muwanguzi says despite the side effects that he experienced, he would still get the vaccine if he knew beforehand. He says he counts himself lucky to have gotten the chance to get vaccinated.

While people like Muwanguzi were desperate to get the COVID-19 jab, many people in the targeted group like health workers and teachers are still hesitant. In fear of vaccines getting expired, the health ministry has decided to withdrawal unused vaccines from districts with low vaccination uptake.

Driwale says this has been done to enable persons who want the vaccine to get it. “We cannot let vaccines get expired, yet there are people in Kampala and other neighbouring districts that want the vaccine. People in Waksio are looking for the vaccine,” he said.