Uganda starts COVID-19 vaccination of over 1.4M refugees

KAMPALA, UGANDA - MARCH 10: A man walks past a banner advertising the vaccination program on March 10, 2021 in Kampala, Uganda. Uganda began phase one of COVID-19 vaccinations today after receiving their first batch of 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) facility on Sunday. The first round will primarily vaccinate the most at-risk populations, such as frontline health workers, teachers and the elderly. Uganda has reported 40,490 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 334 deaths as of March 9. (Photo by Luke Dray/Getty Images)
A man walks past a banner advertising the vaccination program on March 10, 2021, in Kampala, Uganda. (Photo by Luke Dray/Getty Images)

Uganda has rolled out a major COVID-19 vaccination targeting 1.4 million refugees to contain the spread of the virus in the country’s crowded refugee resettlements, a UN refugee agency spokesperson said Sunday.

Wendy Daphne Kasujja, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Uganda, said in a statement sent to Xinhua that at least one million refugees will be inoculated against COVID-19 in the ongoing phase one vaccination exercise.

“UNHCR is grateful to Uganda for the inclusion of refugees in the COVID-19 country response and vaccination plan,” said Kasujja.

Uganda hosts more than 1.4 million refugees, mainly from neighboring South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.

At least 398 refugees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, with 384 recoveries and 7 deaths in the settlements since the outbreak was reported in March last year, according to UNHCR figures.

Some 289 refugee humanitarian workers tested positive for COVID-19, with 287 recoveries and 1 death across the 13 refugee hosting districts in the country.

“We have considered refugees among the priority categories in our COVID-19 vaccination campaign,” said Emmanuel Ainebyoona, spokesperson for the ministry of health.

“We are vaccinating the refugees to ensure we reduce the severity of the disease in the refugee settlements,” he said.

Uganda launched the first phase of the coronavirus vaccination campaign on March 10, targeting more than 21.9 million people who face the highest risk of infection in the country. This includes health workers, teachers, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, as well as refugees.

As of Sunday, a total of 274,217 people had received their first jab of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the ministry of health statistics.

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