At a COVID-19 vaccination site on the outskirts of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, people wait for hours for scarce AstraZeneca jabs.
Some arrived as early as 6 a.m., hoping to be first in line to receive the shot.
It is afternoon before the small box of vials arrives, but to the shock of many of those in line only people eligible for their second dose will receive a jab.
Uganda has struggled to access vaccines to reach its target of inoculating 22 million people, as the world’s rich nations continue to hold onto doses.
The country has only received some 2 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine and 300,000 doses of the Chinese-developed Sinovac shot.
Announcing the latest vaccination figures at a press conference on August 20, Ugandan Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng said availability would continue to decide the speed of the national rollout.
Uganda was ravaged by a second wave of coronavirus infections in June, pushing hospitals to full capacity and forcing the country back into lockdown restrictions.
The government is now using a “multi-pronged approach” to secure jabs, Aceng said, receiving donations through the COVAX program, as well as purchasing vaccines from a number of sources.
The urgency to obtain first and second doses in Uganda and across most poor countries contrasts sharply with rich countries now beginning to authorize booster shots.
Uganda’s COVID-19 incident manager, Dr. Misaki Wayengera, joined the World Health Organization (WHO) and other countries in the African Union in requesting doses be released to poorer countries, ahead of rolling out third jabs.
Seeking to supply and speed up vaccination campaigns across the continent is top of the agenda as African health ministers meet for the WHO’s Regional Committee between August 24-26.
“If you leave pockets of unvaccinated people in sub-Saharan Africa, there are chances that new variants could emerge from here that might threaten the health of the people in the developed world,” Wayengera warned.