Uganda reserves J&J COVID-19 vaccines for hard to reach areas

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 Ministry of Health will distribute Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to hard to reach areas, according to Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng.

She says that the single-shot jab will be preserved for residents of Karamoja, as well as the islands of Kalangala and Buvuma, among other hard to reach areas. Uganda has secured close to 5 million doses of the vaccine which was developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, to prevent COVID-19 in individuals 18 years of age and older.

Aceng noted that although many Ugandans wanted to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the government has decided that this will be administered in areas where it is difficult and expensive for medics to access the eligible persons, and where the storage of the other types of vaccines could be a challenge.

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 single-dose vaccine has been reported to be compatible with standard vaccine storage and distribution channels with ease of delivery to remote areas and can be transported using the same cold chain technologies used to transport treatments for cancer, immunological disorders and other medicines. The vaccine is estimated to remain stable for two years at -4°F (-20°C), and a maximum of three months at routine refrigeration at temperatures.

Dr Aceng made the statement after receiving an additional three million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the government of Germany. She said that the latest batch of donations from Germany brings the total amount of various vaccine doses received since March, both in donations and government procurement, to over 20 million doses.

The government wants to vaccinate utmost half of the 22 million Ugandans who are aged 18 years and above to enable full reopening of the economy.

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Dr Aceng says that the government expects the country to have got over 32 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the year. The vaccines available in the country include AstraZeneca, Moderna, Sinopharm, Pfizer BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson.

The German Ambassador to Uganda, Matthias Schauer Botschafter noted that the latest donation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines was donated through the COVAX facility, the global dose sharing facility and that an additional 2.4 million doses of the same vaccine will arrive in the country on December 9, 2021. He noted that his government, just like Uganda, plans to make vaccination mandatory as a public health concern.

Dr Aceng says the ministry will table amendments to the Public Health Act, 1935 to among others provide for mandatory vaccination, wearing of face masks and other precautionary measures during a pandemic and also introduce penalties for those who do not comply with the law.

Dr Aceng noted that the country will next week launch mass vaccination campaigns in West Nile, Bunyoro, Tooro and Ankole regions following the high turn up in Teso, Kigezi and Lango recently.

She however noted that political leaders and the health ministry will return to Acholi sub-region on Tuesday 7th, December 2021 to sensitise communities on the importance of vaccination.