Confusion surrounds administration of J&J COVID-19 vaccines in Uganda

Confusion surrounds administration of J&J COVID-19 vaccines in Uganda
Administration of J&J COVID-19 vaccines are at the center of controversy in Uganda

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The administration of single-shot J&J COVID-19 vaccines has become an issue of controversy in Uganda following contradicting statements made by health officials.

So far, Uganda has received 650,000 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses. Statements earlier made by officials from the health ministry, National Medical Stores (NMS), and the World Health Organisation (WHO), had indicated that the vaccines have been kept because they have a long shelf life. According to these officials, the country is currently using the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have short shelf lives.

However, reports from some vaccination sites show that J&J COVID-19 vaccines are being given to some people within Kampala. Some of the recipients of the vaccine have been students who received their jab from Makerere Univeristy Hospital.

According to Sheila Ndihukire, the NMS Public Relations Officer, the drugs circulating in Kampala were part of a pilot.

“On Friday, the Minister of Health said J&J has been utilized in Kampala, where a pilot was done, which people mistook to mean that all the 650,000 doses had been administered, we are waiting for additional doses of J&J,” she said.

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Ndihukire says the J&J COVID-19 vaccines will be rolled out nationwide as earlier planned once the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been utilized.

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Health ministry officials that this publication tried to get in touch with to explain the need of a pilot study of the vaccine yet more than 3 million vaccines have already been distributed in the country were not willing to comment.

The programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization, Dr Alfred Driwale however maintained that no J&J COVID-19 vaccines have as yet been distributed.

“The vaccines are still at the stores at the National Medical Stores (NMS) because they have the longest shelf life,” he said.

The government of Uganda procured the J&J vaccines though the African Union (AU) pre-ordering mechanism. The country is expected to get a total of nine million doses of the vaccine.