Uganda tackles yellow fever with new travel requirement, vaccination campaign for millions

Uganda has implemented a nationwide yellow fever vaccination campaign to protect its population from the mosquito-borne disease that has been a longstanding threat. As of the end of April, 12.2 million out of the targeted 14 million people have been vaccinated, according to Dr. Michael Baganizi, an official in charge of immunization at the health ministry. To adhere to international health regulations, Uganda will now require individuals traveling to and from the country to have a yellow fever vaccination card. This requirement aims to encourage more people to get vaccinated, addressing concerns about vaccine hesitancy in the country. The free single-dose vaccine has been made available to Ugandans aged 1 to 60, with vaccination centers set up in various locations, including schools, universities, hospitals, and local government units in the capital city of Kampala and other areas.
Previously, Ugandans had to pay $27 at private clinics to receive the yellow fever shot. Uganda, a country with a population of 45 million, is classified as high risk for yellow fever outbreaks along with 26 other African countries. The World Health Organization reports that there are approximately 200,000 cases and 30,000 deaths globally each year from the disease. Earlier this year, Uganda experienced an outbreak in the central districts of Buikwe and Buvuma. Yellow fever is caused by a virus transmitted through mosquito bites, with the majority of infections being asymptomatic. Symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, headache, loss of appetite, and nausea or vomiting. Uganda’s vaccination initiative is part of a global strategy launched in 2017 by the WHO and partners to eliminate yellow fever by 2026, aiming to protect nearly one billion people in Africa and the Americas.
According to a midterm evaluation conducted last year, the strategy to combat yellow fever in Africa has been successful, with 185 million people in high-risk countries receiving vaccinations by August 2022.

In Uganda, the yellow fever shot is commonly administered to individuals traveling to countries like South Africa, where proof of vaccination is required upon arrival.

James Odite, a nurse at a designated vaccination center in Kampala, reported that there were hundreds of unused doses of the yellow fever vaccine after the vaccination campaign ended. However, these doses will be utilized in a future mass campaign.

One concern expressed by vaccine-hesitant individuals was whether the government was distributing expired vaccines. In response, Baganizi, an immunization official, stated that the government has invested in community “sensitization” sessions to educate people about the life-saving benefits of vaccines.