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Medical Association Ponders Legal Action over Mandatory COVID-19 Jabs for Health Workers

Speaking to journalists on Monday, officials of the Association said that they had received several reports that health workers are being forced into immunization with threats of withholding their pay in the wake of high abstinence by the initial target population.
Officials of the Uganda Medical Association at a Press Conference on Monday.

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The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) is considering legal redress over reports that some political leaders are forcing health workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking to journalists  on Monday, officials of the Association said that they had received several reports that health workers are being forced into immunization with threats of withholding their pay in the wake of high abstinence by the initial target population.

The Ministry of Health had targeted to initially vaccinate a total of 150,000 health workers. But by the end of the week, only a total of about 6,000 health workers had turned up in an exercise that has lasted more than a month.

Dr Muhereza Mukuzi, the UMA Secretary-General says they are talking to officials in some of the districts, including Amuru, where the initial complaint came from but warned that if they fail to heed they are considering suing them for violating health workers’ rights. 

//Cue in; “The good thing…

Cue out…talk to them.”// 

Due to low uptake by health workers, the Ministry had to go against their earlier plan and called other target groups for vaccination as many centres across the country went days without receiving the targeted daily numbers. As a result, in some districts, officials issued orders for all health workers to turn up which Dr Richard Idro says goes against the principle of voluntarily seeking healthcare.  

//Cue in; “A health worker is…      

Cue out…consent for it.”// 

Even as less than 50 per cent of the targeted 150,000 health workers have sought their jabs, Idro says that threatening abstaining health workers with pay cuts and suspension will only heighten the anxiety among the population. He says the ministry should revise its immunization campaign strategy to respond to any fears. 

//Cue in; “My thought is….      

Cue out…vaccine is safe.”//

This however comes just around the same time that President Museveni warned that abstaining health workers are not only a danger to themselves but to others. Also, last week, the ministry sent out a circular to hospitals urging medics to submit general vaccination statistics which will eventually guide lifting of restrictions such as the curfew and opening up of bars.

As of Monday, of the 964,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that the country received earlier in March, only 232,514 had been used. In addition to health workers, those with co-morbidities, those aged 50 and above, teachers and security operatives have been called to receive the jab. Idro says since this is not part of routine immunization, an individual should willfully consent to receive it. 

//Cue in; ”it is the responsibility….  

Cue out…to receive it.”// 

However, vaccine hesitancy has not been exclusively faced by Uganda. According to the World Health Organisation, many countries including in the US and in the Middle East have had slow progress in inoculations something they tag largely on misinformation.

The Organization asked countries to have a strong communication strategy to allay any fears among the populations as they vaccinate.  In Uganda, the medical association says a lot more to this end needs to be done.     

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