The Ministry of Health still has 13.4 million unutilized COVID-19 vaccines, the Public Accounts Committee – PAC Central Government has learned. The Health Ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr. Diana Atwine, says that the country risks losing huge sums of money that was used to procure the vaccines if they expire without being utilized.
Some of the vaccines are scheduled to expire in August and September this year. She attributed the low uptake of the vaccine to negative perceptions about the side effects and the belief by Ugandans that COVID-19 no longer poses a life-threatening risk.
She was appearing before the committee alongside other officials from the Ministry of Health on Wednesday to respond to a recent forensic investigation by the Auditor General, John Muwanga into the utilization of COVID-19 response funds during financial years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.
The forensic investigation was informed by a resolution of Parliament on a report of the Parliamentary Taskforce on the National COVID-19 Response, which requested the Auditor General to conduct investigations into the COVID-19 funds.
The main objective of the forensic investigation was to ascertain whether all COVID-19-related spending was done in accordance with existing laws, policies, and guidelines, whether there was any loss in expenditure and clarify responsible officers, and to make recommendations for better use of COVID-19-related funds.
In her submissions to PAC-Central Government, Atwine said that the Ministry’s appeals for people to take up vaccines are not adhered to, given the perception that Uganda is out of danger. Asuman Basalirwa, the Committee Vice Chairperson questioned whether there was a possibility that the vaccines can be sold to other countries before the expiry dates.
Atwine said that all African countries bought the COVID-19 vaccines at the same time and that those in the region like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and Kenya are also stuck with unused vaccines. She revealed that on her recent visit to South Africarevealed that the country was also stuck with vaccines.