The Last Mile: Uganda’s Covid-19 vaccine struggle

Uganda struggles with extreme vaccination gap. And its not alone.

5/11/2021 2:13:00 PM

Uganda struggles with extreme vaccination gap. And its not alone.

NBC followed a team bringing vaccine doses to remote regions of Uganda. This landlocked East African nation has only enough vaccines to protect just 1 percent of its population.

, everyone will remain vulnerable as long as there are pockets of Covid-19 anywhere in the world.The Biden administration has struck a far more internationalist tone than that of former President Donald Trump. It has pledged $4 billion toward COVAX — the most of any country — and said it will donate surplus shots abroad as part of its international fightback against the virus.

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But Biden's focus has still been domestic, making sure Americans are not impacted by any global goodwill and only offering to give away its stockpile of 60 million Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccines — which it wasn't using anyway.“If any country thinks after vaccinating its population they are safe, it is a lie”

— Uganda’s health minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng speaks to NBC News.‘It feels good’In Namatale, a wooden desk covered with green tablecloth sits in front of the island’s health clinic — a hand-written sign reading “vaccination table” hanging from it. Registration forms, a hand sanitizer bottle and disposable gloves sit next to a gray cooler box with a blue UNICEF sticker — that’s where the vaccines are.

Breeze blows from the lake and music plays from the loudspeakers in the background as the recipients, mostly health workers, get their shots one by one.  Dr. Katende Jimmy shows his vaccination card. Christine Romo / NBC NewsDr. Katende Jimmy shows his vaccination card. Christine Romo / NBC News

A clutch of curious children watch as Dr. Katende Jimmy rolls up his sleeve for the injections. “It feels good,” he said. “We want to do away with this pandemic.”He’s one of the lucky ones; other health workers will have to wait for their vaccine. 

The 52 islands that comprise the Buvuma Islands, of which Namatale is one, had received 1,070 doses when NBC News visited in late March. About 130,000 people live there, 200 of them health workers. Kabwongera, who works round-the-clock managing UNICEF’s immunization program in Uganda, said only 320 people across the islands have been vaccinated since NBC News left and as the country struggles to finance deliveries to remote locations. 

With COVAX sending vaccines in small batches — instead of by the millions — going back to places as remote as Namatale to vaccinate new groups of people as doses trickle in is expensive, according to Kabwongera.At the moment, she and her team have to go to each and every island to vaccine health workers alone.

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Whenever the next shipment arrives from COVAX, she said, they will have to go back to Namatale and the other 51 remote Buvuma Islands on Lake Victoria to start targeting the next key group — teachers. That means more money is needed for fuel and other transportation costs. 

“This is gold to us.”—  Dr. Yayi AlfredTwahf Sedi Olega, a cold-chain specialist responsible for keeping the vaccines at the correct temperature, is flanked by two armed security guards who keep watch over the site 24 hours a day. Photo: Christine Romo / NBC News

Twahf Sedi Olega, a cold-chain specialist responsible for keeping the vaccines at the correct temperature, is flanked by two armed security guards who keep watch over the site 24 hours a day. Photo: Christine Romo / NBC NewsAround the same time as Kabwongera arrived in Namatale, COVAX-supplied vaccines landed some 260 miles north of the island in Bidibidi, a vast refugee camp on the border with South Sudan. 

Read more: NBC News Health »

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Covid-19 vaccinations for young teens could be available as soon as Thursday, FDA predictsThe CDC is expected to sign off on the move Wednesday, making Thursday the first day shots could be available for children 12 to 15 years old. Un paso más hacia la verdadera inmunidad de grupo y el final de la pandemia. ⚽For football betting fans Search for the channel ' LADSBROKE ' on TELEGRAM and join winning team making money through sports betting, the guy is good with punting odds, best tipster so far in football betting tips. Oh-My-GodOmniabsolute=Universe-Gravity: Hence, no child should be retained or not promoted in this Pandemic-Era. 'A mind is a progressive disposition'. (FYI, & now you know). [rest, dress & finesse]. {styles, smiles & profiles}****

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