Ugandan teachers tasked to get vaccinated ahead of reopening schools

A member of staff has her temperature measured before entering a school in Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 15, 2020, Hajarah Nalwadda/Xinhua
FILE:A member of staff has her temperature measured before entering a school in Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 15, 2020. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Sept. 20 that schools, colleges and universities will reopen for the 1.2 million students in candidate classes and finalists in tertiary colleges and universities on Oct. 15. (Photo by Hajarah Nalwadda/Xinhua)

The Ugandan government has tasked more than 357,500 teachers to receive full COVID-19 vaccination before reopening schools for all learners across the country.

Official statistics show only 38 percent of teachers have been vaccinated, six months after the government kicked off COVID-19 vaccination where teachers and health workers were singled out as a priority.

And of the teachers so far vaccinated, up to 77 percent have received only one dose, meaning their immunity against COVID-19 is less effective.

The government is struggling to secure vaccines for 21.9 million people. The country is using donated vaccines from the COVAX facility.

The World Health Organisation this week appealed to wealthy nations to share the scarce shots with poor countries who are yet to immunize their people instead of being used by rich countries as boosters.

Education ministry officials have also abandoned the initial plan to vaccinate all learners from 12 years and above before reopening schools. They say experts in the Ministry of Health advised against the move and proposed that the focus be put on vaccinating at least 65 percent of the teachers.

Currently, the country has a total of 586,080 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. However, the available vaccines also need to cater to health workers, the elderly, security officers, and people with underlying comorbidities.

In the face of the COVID-19 threat, the government shut educational institutions first in March 2020 and again on June 18, 2021, after a post-first pandemic wave phased re-opening.

The second lockdown, which ran for 42 days, has been partially lifted, but schools remain closed leaving a total of 15.1m learners locked home.

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