Uganda tackles yellow fever with new travel requirement

A man holds a yellow fever vaccination card at the Kiswa III health centre in Kampala, Uganda, 2 April 2024. COURTESY PHOTO/

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | Uganda has launched a nationwide yellow fever vaccination campaign to protect its population from the mosquito-borne disease, which has long been a significant threat.

By the end of April 2024, Ugandan health authorities had vaccinated 12.2 million out of the 14 million people targeted, according to Dr. Michael Baganizi, an immunization official at the Ministry of Health.

In line with international health regulations, Uganda will now require all travelers entering and leaving the country to present a yellow fever vaccination card, Baganizi announced.

Authorities hope this new requirement will encourage more people to get vaccinated, addressing the prevalent vaccine hesitancy among the population in the East African nation.

The single-dose yellow fever vaccine has been provided free of charge to Ugandans aged 1 to 60. Vaccination centers have been set up in various locations, including schools, universities, hospitals, and local government units in Kampala and other regions.

Previously, Ugandans typically paid around $27 to receive the yellow fever vaccine at private clinics.

With a population of 45 million, Uganda is among 27 African countries considered at high risk for yellow fever outbreaks. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports approximately 200,000 cases and 30,000 deaths globally each year due to the disease.

Earlier this year, Uganda reported a yellow fever outbreak in the central districts of Buikwe and Buvuma.

Yellow fever is a viral disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Most people infected with the virus do not show symptoms, but those who do may experience fever, muscle pain, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Uganda’s vaccination campaign is part of a global strategy initiated in 2017 by the WHO and partners, including the U.N. children’s agency, to eradicate yellow fever by 2026. The strategy aims to protect nearly one billion people in Africa and the Americas.

Free yellow fever vaccination campaign kicks off in Kampala
Yellow fever vaccination in Kampala.

A midterm evaluation of this strategy, published last year, revealed that by August 2022, 185 million people in high-risk African countries had been vaccinated.

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In Uganda, yellow fever vaccination is often required for travel to countries like South Africa, which mandate proof of vaccination upon arrival.

James Odite, a nurse at a private hospital in a Kampala suburb designated as a vaccination center, told the Kampala Dispatch that hundreds of doses remained unused after the yellow fever vaccination campaign ended. These doses will be used in future mass vaccination efforts.

One concern among vaccine-hesitant individuals was the fear that the government might be distributing expired vaccines, Odite noted.

Dr. Michael Baganizi, the immunization official, emphasized that the Ugandan government has invested in community sensitization sessions to educate the public about the life-saving benefits of vaccines.