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Uganda hospitals have hundreds of unused yellow fever jabs due to vaccine hesitancy

People receiving yellow fever vaccinations
People receiving yellow fever vaccinations Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Roselyne Min with AP
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Experts say vaccine hesitancy may stem from the disease being less well-known compared to others like malaria.


Hundreds of unused doses of yellow fever jabs have been left in hospitals in Uganda due to vaccine hesitancy.

The East African country launched mass vaccination campaigns in 2023 and 2024, aiming to protect 27 million people, but only 12 million have been immunised.

The single-dose vaccine has been offered free of charge to Ugandans between the ages of one and 60.

Vaccination centres in the capital, Kampala, and elsewhere included schools, universities, hospitals and local government units.

Before this, Ugandans usually paid to get the yellow fever shot at private clinics, for the equivalent of $27 (about €25).

The Gemini Medical Centre in Kampala is one of the government's designated vaccination centres.

The private hospital has hundreds of unspent doses of the yellow fever vaccine, according to James Odite, a nurse working at the facility.

“It was low in the first weeks because people were doubting about the vaccine, they thought why is the government introducing the campaign of yellow fever as they had queries like the government wants to give them expired vaccines,” said Odite.

Odite added that most of the people who came for the vaccination were those who wanted to travel to another country where the vaccine is a legal requirement for entry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are between 84,000 and 170,000 severe cases of yellow fever in Africa each year. Up to half of these cases result in death.

Dr Michael Baganizi, the programme director of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization (UNEPI), said the country has a high risk for yellow fever.

He added that even one case can cause a national risk to health.

Yellow fever virus is transmitted to humans by the bites of infected Aedes and Haemagogus mosquitoes, according to the WHO.

The virus poses a significant threat to global health security, particularly in central Africa and South America.

While there is no treatment for the potentially deadly yellow fever virus, the WHO says the vaccine can give lifetime protection against the disease.

‘Few people might have seen it’

Mosh Ssendi, a local councillor in Kampala who is opposed to the vaccination programme said: “We are supposed to be building immunity not getting chemicals into their bodies”.

“So, when it gets to children that’s why I personally called, by the way, the school where my son goes, I told them I don’t want to hear about anything about mass vaccination”.

Experts say vaccine hesitancy may stem from the disease being less well-known compared to others like malaria.


"Malaria, almost every household will know what you are talking about but yellow fever is not the same although the threat can be bigger," said Baganizi.

"So, educating the public is even more difficult, because if I have not seen the disease, I have not seen a neighbour with the disease, I have not seen anyone who has died of the disease somehow I have the feeling that I am not at a threat,” he added.

Uganda will require everyone travelling to and from the country to have a yellow fever vaccination card as an international health regulation, Baganizi said.

The hope is that the new requirement will compel more people to get the yellow fever shot amid a general atmosphere of vaccine hesitancy that worries healthcare providers in the East African nation.

According to the WHO, Uganda is one of 27 countries on the African continent classified as at high risk for yellow fever outbreaks, with 90 per cent of reported global cases occurring on the continent.


For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Roselyne Min

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