Uganda health experts dispel myths on deaths caused by COVID-19 vaccine

President Museveni, First Lady receives second COVID-19 vaccine jab
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni receives the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine jab at State Lodge Nakasero in Kampala, Uganda, on June 3, 2021.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Uganda health experts have dismissed allegations that the COVID-19 vaccine is responsible for the death of people succumbing to the virus shortly after taking the jab.

Dr. Alfred Driwale, the Assistant Commissioner & Program Manager of Uganda National Expanded Program on Immunization (UNEPI), says that while it is true that people can die of COVID-19 even after taking the jab, the vaccine isn’t to blame for their death.

Speaking at the release of a report about misinformation and misconceptions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine at Hotel Africana, Dr. Driwale said that between June 15th and 20th, the Ministry of Health reviewed the history of 200 COVID-19 victims and found that the majority had not actually taken the jab.

He says that they established that only 11 out of the 200 cases had only taken their first jab. The remaining number was never vaccinated. “There was no person who had been fully vaccinated who had died or even hospitalised,” he said.

Dr. Driwale said that the small number of people who died after taking the vaccine had underlying health conditions including diabetes, heart and kidney problems among others, which led to their death. He says a breakthrough infection, which comes after vaccination is possible but can only cause about 0.03 per cent deaths if it does among the vaccinated population.

President Museveni, First Lady receives second COVID-19 vaccine jab
Ugandan First Lady, Janet Museveni receives the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca at State Lodge Nakasero in Kampala, Uganda, on June 3, 2021.

Dr. Driwale says that people who are not vaccinated stand a high risk of getting adverse effects when attacked by the virus while others could even die.

Dr. Driwale says it’s unfortunate that as the word races to produce or get vaccines for their people; Ugandans are engaged in talk that discredits their vaccination efforts. While some counties like the United Kingdom have vaccinated over 50 per cent of their population and now returning to normalcy, only 130,000 Ugandan have been fully vaccinated and 800,000 partially vaccinated out of a population of over 43 million people.

Dr. Driwale says Uganda should focus on getting more vaccines to vaccinate its population such that people are protected from adverse effects of the virus because the purpose of the vaccine is to challenge one’s body to respond to future attacks.  He says that any misinformation is an attack on the efforts to fight this pandemic that has ravaged the globe.

What other Uganda health experts say

Dr. Annet Kisakye, a Technical Officer at the World Health Organisation (WHO) also dismissed allegations that people are dying because of the COVID-19 Vaccine. She says the best option for one is to avoid catching the virus through observing Standard Operating Procedures and vaccination.

Uganda starts administering 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng receives the 2nd dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Kisakye further urged people who haven’t received their second jab to do so saying that their protection is enhanced after full vaccination. She adds that those who are vaccinated should also continue to be vigilant after all they can still, catch the virus although they may not experience adverse effects and death.

Dr. Kisakye says research is still underway to establish whether a person who has been fully vaccinated can transfer the virus to other people. For this, she says it is important that even after vaccination, one remains vigilant to avoid catching the virus because they might end up transferring it to others.

Read Also: COVID-19 vaccine confidence in Kampala growing – Twaweza

Dr. Sabrina Kitaka, lecturer at Makerere University says the challenge the COVID-19 vaccination has faced is that there is a lot of information coming in and people sharing a lot of it including unverified information. She called upon the public to stick to professional guidance and avoid taking in and believing misinformation.

She referred to various vaccines like those of polio, chickenpox, measles and others that have eradicated such diseases. Dr. Phiona Ahebwa also from WHO called for vigilance among the public to observe standard operating procedures.

She says the race for vaccines is real and that currently there are no vaccines on the market for sale. A study by Twaweza that involved Uganda health experts in their survey, has revealed that people in Kampala are more aware and welcoming of the COVID-19 vaccines.

However, it called for enhanced sensitisation and taking vaccination centers closer to the people. Uganda is currently using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine produced from India.