Govt: No vaccine jab, no jobs

A Covid-19 vaccination card

A Covid-19 vaccination card

After a stumbling start, the vaccine donations are piling and the vaccinations are slowly on the climb. But getting the scarce Covid-19 vaccine doses into arms is complicated by the reluctance of the population to take the jabs.

Frustrated by the slow pace of the vaccine uptake, the minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng announced last week that her ministry may restrict non-vaccinated staff from accessing the ministry head offices at Wandegeya.

In her routine update on the Covid-19 situation in the country broadcast live on UBC last Wednesday, Dr Aceng said other countries are barring unvaccinated people from accessing public places. She argued that such measures would help government increase the uptake of Covid-19 vaccines, which is still low around the country.

Initially, government had promised to fully open up all sectors under lockdown such as bars and schools when at least 4.8 million out of 40 million Ugandans are vaccinated by December 2021.

But in his recent remarks during the closure of the two-day induction of cabinet ministers, President Museveni announced a change of heart. He revealed that the reopening of schools shall be pegged on the vaccination of seven million Ugandans, a 2.2 million increase from the initial 4.8 million Ugandans.

That pronouncement cast doubt on the November 2021 and January 2022 reopening of schools. An on-the-ground visit to the ministry head offices by The Observer established that access is already restricted to people with proof of full vaccination.

In an October 14, 2021 media advisory addressed to all staff and visitors, National Medical Stores said it has stepped up efforts in curbing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, mandating all the staff and visitors to present proof of full vaccination before admission into the NMS premises (including vehicles).”

“...We are leading by example and ensuring that all our staff and visitors coming to our premises are fully vaccinated to comply with the president’s directive on full Covid-19 vaccination. We, therefore, expect all our staff and visitors to comply with these new measures to avoid any inconveniences.”

In Soroti, the resident district commissioner issued a circular, saying he will only transact business with fully vaccinated people. In Kwania district, the resident district commissioner has directed that any boda boda rider without a vaccination card will not be allowed to work.

This proof of vaccination measure is aimed at jolting skeptics into taking the jabs. According to the ministry of Health statistics, Uganda has received 5,690,363 vaccine doses. About 196,800 of these are Johnson and Johnson vaccines procured through direct purchase while the rest are donations.

Uganda has so far double-jabbed 584,066 people, and about 1.8 million people have received a single jab almost one year and seven months since the first coronavirus case was detected in the country in March 2020.

Since the biggest percentage of vaccine doses are donations, some people have delayed to get a second dose just because their brand of vaccine was used up and there are no replenishments.

Uganda has deployed many Covid-9 vaccines into the population including Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Johnsons and Johnsons, etc. And experts are afraid that vaccination mandates might force people into trying unapproved vaccine mix-ups just to get back to work.

This could present severe medical challenges. The ministry of Health has only approved a vaccine blend of AstraZeneca first jab, with a Pfizer second jab. This mixing happens in cases where the AstraZeneca second dose cannot be found. Any other forms of vaccine mixing have not been approved by the ministry.

There’s also misinformation that vaccination makes people immune to contracting Covid-19. The American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention through its website says Covid-19 vaccines are effective at protecting recipients from severe disease and death including from the current variants like Delta.

The CDC recommends that people wear their face masks while in areas of substantial or high transmission even though one is fully vaccinated since wearing a mask maximizes protection from the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others.


Interviewed for this story, Arthur Owere, the chairperson of the National Organization of Trade Unions in Uganda, said workers should get vaccinated so that government has no excuse to terminate their jobs.

“...people are already suffering and schools are still closed. Let them borrow from me and get vaccinated. I got all my two jabs...” Owere said.

The complete reopening of schools has been hinged on the full vaccination of all teachers and students above the ages of 18. Universities cleared to reopen in November have informed their students that access to the university premises shall be only for the fully vaccinated. The very few vaccination centers have also frustrated vaccine uptake as people are discouraged by the long lines.

Doctor Richard Idro, the president of Uganda Medical Association, said people should not be forced to get vaccinated but, rather, should be encouraged.

He added, “...there are more than 3.5 billion people around the world that have got vaccinated and as you can see, some countries in Europe have returned to football stadia to watch their football matches. If you get reactions arising from vaccination, the National Drug Authority is monitoring these cases and you can get online and report these cases...”

One prominent lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being labeled an antivaxxer, said although Article 23 clause 1(b) of the Constitution recommends that personal liberty can be withdrawn if the withdrawal is aimed at preventing the spread of an infectious or contagious disease, it is insufficient to permit compulsory vaccination. He added that compulsory vaccination most especially of adults aged 18 years and above is a specific measure that must be authorized only by law, which law is not present at the moment.

He said the overall government response to stop the spread of Covid-19 has been callous, which has created a tinderbox of opposition to vaccination. “...why would I want to be vaccinated yet those handling the vaccination are using it as a pretext to be abusive and corrupt?” he said.

“Where does government get the audacity to force vaccination on people yet there are no vaccines,” he asked. “...I am pro-vaccination but from where do I get vaccinated? The vaccine apartheid should stop. Let the polling stations turn into vaccination centers...”

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd