by Arthur Oyako
As part of ongoing fight against COVID-19, the Anti Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU), in cooperation with the Partnership for Transparency (PTF), has embarked on a project to increase transparency and accountability in COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, while promoting equitable distribution of doses and addressing sources of vaccine hesitancy in target communities.
The Uganda Vaccine Monitoring and Transparency project aims to increase rates of vaccination at the district hospitals of Kasangati and Kira, decrease apathy toward the COVID-19 vaccines, and debunk myths and dispel misinformation about the vaccine.
The government of Uganda is also a partner in this initiative.
So far, four health workers at Kasangati Health Centre IV and Kira Health Centre IV have been designated to participate in the project. These health workers have been providing weekly reports on vaccine deliveries, issues of prioritization with regard to vaccine distribution,equity in vaccination, reported side effects, and challenges faced in the process of distributing vaccine doses to their communities.
Their reports have indicated that community leaders, national government leaders, and assigned health workers are involved in informing community members of the number of vaccine doses received and used. ACCU has provided these officials with monthly airtime on their mobile phones to ensure a continued interaction and weekly reporting on vaccines administration.
The reported challenges so far include: an insufficient number of vaccines supplied to the districts, leading to overcrowding at the health facilities as community members compete for access. Additionally, vaccines have also been received without the corresponding number of vaccination cards, meaning that those who receive a vaccine do not receive any official documentation or record. Lastly, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has not provided sufficient assistance to the local health centres. This lack of Ministry involvement, which was promised in March of 2021, has been another factor in the unsatisfactory rates of vaccination. For example, when the first vaccines were sent to vaccine centers, they were not accompanied by vaccination certificates, meaning those who received doses had no proof of vaccination. This has since be rectified. Similarly, the Ministry of Health initially assumed a supervisory role while the issue of managing vaccine distribution was left to the vaccination officers. However, the MoH has assumed management of distribution, collection, and return of unused stock.
Also, the aspect of prioritization has come out significantly. The Ministry guidelines are to consider health workers, the elderly and people with comorbidity yet teachers are supposed to get their second doses. It becomes challenging for health workers to determine who gets the vaccines first.
Going forward, the next steps in the project involve collecting information on community experiences with and perceptions of the vaccine, as well as basic public health knowledge, in order assess primary causes of vaccine hesitancy in the target communities. Once information is aggregated and analyzed, the next steps will involve a series of community outreach events to dispel reported misinformation and myths.
Already within the context of the project there has been a reported uptick in vaccination rates in the target communities. With the next phase of work, this number is only likely to increase.
Arthur Oyako is the Communications Manager at the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda