KAMPALA: According to records from the Ministry of Health, more than 1.9 million vaccines have been thrown away during the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns that are still going on.
Uganda has received a total of 44.7 million vaccine doses since March 2021. But of these, 1,986,297 vaccine doses were wasted during the vaccination process. Most of them were closed vial wastage, which happens when vaccine vials aren’t kept at the right temperature while being stored or transported.
More than 10,000 doses were wasted through spilling or physical damage, while about 158,431 doses of vaccines had expired as of March 2022.
According to Dr Daniel Kyabayinze, the Incident Manager in Charge of Vaccination at the Ministry of Health, the highest wastage was recorded in Northern Uganda, where many people refused to get vaccinated using the Moderna vaccine. The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is stored frozen and with limited exposure to light, direct sunlight, and ultraviolet light.
Medics say that the vaccine should be kept in the refrigerator between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius for up to 30 days before it is used, and that it should be thrown away 12 hours after the first puncture.There were many rural health centres that could not store the medicines in the way that they needed to, because some of them had problems with power.
But Dr. Kyabayinze says that even though the country has thrown away a lot of vaccines, the country is still within the World Health Organization’s acceptable limits, which say that vaccine wastage should not be more than 5%.
At the start of the vaccination exercise last year, the programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization, Dr Alfred Driwale, cautioned health workers about reducing vaccine wastage. Dr Driwale said that the wastage of vaccines affects the country’s stocks because donors will not be willing to donate to people who are not using the vaccines.
“We have very few vaccines and it is important that health workers ensure that all the vaccines that are received at vaccination sites end up in the arms of people,” he said.
All of the vaccines that have been used in the country have been multi-dose vials, where one vial contains at least 10 doses of the vaccine. For instance, some of the vaccines like AstraZeneca need to be used within six hours after opening a vial. To cut down on waste, the ministry of health had first suggested that vaccine vials be opened only when there were enough people who could use all of the vaccine inside.
As of last month, 43 percent of Uganda’s target population of 22 million people had received all of their vaccinations.However, with the reduction in uptake of the vaccine, Dr Kyabayinze says they cannot chase people away because the vaccines will be wasted.