Byron Kinene, the chairperson of the Regional Lorry Drivers and Transport Association (RLDTA) says that while truckers were considered high risk groups in the early days of the pandemic, having recorded the highest number of positives, accessing vaccination services has been difficult.
Truck drivers are complaining about being left out as key populations
when the Ministry of Health was considering priority groups for immunization against
Byron Kinene, the chairperson of the Regional Lorry Drivers and
Transport Association (RLDTA) says that while truckers were considered high
risk groups in the early days of the pandemic, having recorded the highest
number of positives, accessing vaccination services has been difficult.
Despite their schedules and the availability
of testing services at border points, even truckers who fall under the priority groups
like those with underlying illnesses and those aged above 50 years have had
to go look for vaccines in designated vaccinating health facilities. Because of this, Kinene says many of them have not yet
gotten their jabs and continue being a threat.
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This is being revealed just a day after genome sequencing that categorizes the coronavirus strains circulating in the country found Uganda to have five strains of
which the UK, South African, and the Nigerian strain were all ferried in into
the country by truck drivers. In the aftermath, Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng told URN that Uganda
Virus Research Institute (UVRI) found both the UK and the South African strains
to be common among truckers from Kenya.
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Although Kenya and Tanzania have been put among countries in category two where non-urgent travel to
Uganda should be suspended due to spiraling COVID-19 cases, specific
interventions targeting vaccination of truck drivers remain unavailable. Aceng
says that they can always get vaccinated at the various vaccination centers when
they return from their journeys.
For vaccination, Kinene says the Ministry should have
established centers at border points for drivers to get their jabs and continue
with their journeys just like it is for testing at land border points. Instead of this, Aceng says, they are strengthening
testing such that only accredited laboratories at border points can do the
testing after concerns that drivers were presenting fake test certificates for
clearance at the border.
She says that Uganda has accredited ten laboratories to
work at border points which will be integrated into the regional electronic
drivers tracking system so that any other results presented from other labs are
rejected at any of the borders in the East African Community (EAC).
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She added that ministers of health of different partner
states are exploring a regional electronic common health pass
that drivers can present at country entry points to give them a clean bill of
health. She said the way forward about
this will be known next Friday, May 15, when their next