By Taddeo Bwambale
TEN more districts have started receiving pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) rolled in January to prevent pneumonia among children below the age of five.
Distribution of the PCV vaccine started on January 14 in 94 out 112 districts.
The Director General of Health Services, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng on Wednesday disclosed that 10 out of the 18 remaining districts had satisfied requirements for receiving the vaccines.
Under new guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), districts must first put in place functional cold chain systems and recruit trained personnel to handle vaccines, before they can be supplied.
The districts that have started receiving the vaccines are: Moyo, Sembabule, Sheema, Nakaseke, Mbarara, Mitooma, Otuke Mbale, Apac and Adjumani.
The health ministry’s spokesperson, Rukia Nakamatte said the districts would conduct vaccination before the end of the month.
Kampala, Gulu, Kayunga, Yumbe, Adjumani, Soroti, Alebtong, Bundibugyo and Hoima will start receiving the supplies next month if they fulfill the requirements.
Government launched free pneumonia vaccination in April last year and included it on the country’s list of vaccines for routine immunisation.
The PCV vaccine offers children protection against pneumonia and some forms of Meningitis.
The minister said efforts were underway to ensure that appropriate facilities are in place so that the remaining districts can receive vaccine supplies in February.
The Pneumonia vaccines were procured at a cost of about sh8b, with half of the sum provided by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) and the rest by Government.
The introduction of the PCV vaccine is part of attempts to improve the country’s immunisation coverage previously estimated at only 52%.
Uganda’s immunisation coverage rose significantly to 98%, up from 52% registered between 2006 and 2012, according to the health ministry.
The roll out of the Pneumonia vaccine is considered key as Government attempts to lower the high infant mortality rate in the country, currently estimated at 90 deaths per 1,000 births.
The PCV vaccine is administered alongside other childhood vaccines against tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, influenza B and measles.
The PCV vaccine will be administered as an injection on the upper part of the right thigh to babies at three intervals when they are six weeks old, then at 10 weeks of age and at 14 weeks.
The introduction of the PCV vaccine will save the lives of over 10,000 children and sh2.5b annually in direct medical costs, according to the health ministry.
Pneumonia is the second biggest killer of children under the age of five in Uganda, after malaria.
According to WHO, Pneumonia kills about 1.6 million children under the age of five annually and accounts for 18% of all deaths of children under the age of five.