Uganda battles Covid third wave,oxygen & vaccine dearth

Uganda battles Covid third wave amid oxygen & vaccine dearth

African country of Uganda is battling third wave of Covid-19 currently amid acute shortage of vaccines and oxygen supply. Panic has swept across country’s authorities and healthcare framework as reports come in of running out or experiencing acute shortage of AstraZeneca vaccine in national capital Kampala, and other regional hubs including Jinga, Soroti, Gulu, Masaka and Entebbe.

These cities also report a shortage of medical oxygen with hospitals reporting they would no longer be able to admit patients to intensive care units (ICUs). 

As the country runs out of vaccines, many hospitals and vaccination centres across Uganda have halted the vaccination campaign that had aim of vaccinating 21.9 million high risk people of Uganda.

Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organization’s representative to Uganda, has confirmed that as of Monday, the National Medical Stores has run out of Covid-19 vaccines. The National Medical Stores is Uganda’s central distribution center for all public health facilities in the country. 

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Ugandan Medical Association (UMA) has raised concerns that the current situation might only lead to further dire conditions as the country experiences a continuous rise in Covid-19 cases. According to WHO data, Uganda reported 1,735 confirmed Covid-19 cases on June 13, as compared to 60 cases on May 13 indicating an increase of nearly 2,800%. According to the Ministry of Health, an official number of cases in Uganda stands at 63,099 and 434 deaths. 

Mukuzi Muhereza, UMA secretary general said, “We really feel it’s an emergency. We are receiving SOS [calls] for oxygen and human resources from health facilities across the country.” He added, “It’s dire, especially in public hospitals, which fill first because they are free. Many people are being turned away from hospitals because of few spaces. We need to expand equipment capacity and human resources to continue to offer these services and respond to this crisis.” 

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, a Ministry of Health spokesman, however, claimed that there are still some stocks left. “The hospitals that need their second shots, some have not been able to find stock and replenish their doses,” he said. “We hope by the end of this week [that] every vaccination center would have been restocked. We expect to receive 175,000 doses of AstraZeneca this week.” 

UN’s Covax scheme of Covid-19 vaccine has provided Uganda with 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Country had also received over 100,000 doses from the Indian government in March. At least 660,000 additional doses are expected to arrive in August through Covax scheme.