By Brian Mayanja
When Carol Nassozi gave birth to a baby boy in August, nurses told her to strictly follow the immunisation schedule. She never missed a date.
But when she took her son to Kireka health centre for the second phase recently, Nassozi was told there were no vaccines for some of the killer diseases.
The nurses advised her to go to Naguru Hospital or Kiswa health centre, yet these places are farther from her home.
“I was told there were no drugs. I had no option, but to take my son to where I had been referred,” she said.
Nassozi is among thousands of mothers who are stranded due to shortage of vaccines in a number of health centres.
When we visited three health centres in Wakiso district, many mothers were stranded at the facilities because there were no DPT and polio vaccines.
The health centres included Kira health centre III, Kasanganti health centre IV and Kireka health centre II.
At Kasangati health centre IV, a nursing officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they have not had vaccines for a month.
“We only have the measles vaccine. Mothers who fail to access immunisation insult us. Unfortunately, we were not alerted that there would be a shortage of drugs,” she explained.
She said they advise mothers to go to Mulago Hospital.
But the shortage seems to have hit other districts as well.
In Mukono, 52 immunisation centres may face the same crisis, starting next week, if the vaccines are not delivered on time.
Dr. Elly Tumushabe, the Mukono district health officer, said they were left with a few supplies of immunisation drugs.
He noted that the shortage was a result of a shift in policy of drug supply by the National Medical Stores (NMS).
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) was supposed to conduct a mobile immunisation campaign this month, but it has been delayed by the shortage of vaccines.
Dr. Habo Mugisha, KCCA’s director for health, attributed the delay to lack of supplies.
Health ministry responds
Dr. Anthony Mbonye, the commissioner for health services, admitted that there was a crisis in some areas. He, however, blamed the delay on logistical problems.
“We have the vaccines but we lack staff. That is why there is a shortage in some districts. The health sector needs to employ more people to supply the vaccines on time,” he said.
According to Dr. Elly Tumushabe, the Mukono district health officer, the supply and distribution of vaccines has been under the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunisation (UNEPI).
But recently, the health ministry gave this mandate to NMS. He said the transition from UNEPI to NMS could have been the cause of shortages at some centres.
However, NMS spokesperson, Dan Kimosho, denied knowledge of the shortage, but said Uganda was on course to reduce child mortality rates by preventing the six killer diseases.