Lack of kits hampers Hepatitis B vaccination in Kasese

By Wilson Asiimwe

The district has not been able to establish a treatment and vaccination centre due to inadequate funding from the health ministry

Kasese district health department lacks a Hepatitis B treatment and vaccination centre to cater for cases among locals in the district.

The district is only relying on private health facilities like Bishop Masereka Medical Center, Kagando Hospital and Ebenezer Health Centre which are pricy for patients who seek vaccination and treatment of the deadly liver disease.

Kasese also currently has no Hepatitis B vaccines according to Stella Baruga, the Kasese district assistant health officer in-charge of maternal child health, whatever is being done in care, treatment and vaccination of patients is under private health sector arrangements.

"As a district health department we don't have any vaccines and testing kits for Hepatitis B so we are only relying on private clinics which also charge a lot of money from the people," Baruga said.

Baruga said that the district health department has not been able to establish a treatment and vaccination centre due to inadequate funding from the health ministry specifically towards Hepatitis B treatment and vaccination.

"We don't have the money in the budget for Hepatitis B treatment and vaccination because we entirely depend on the ministry of health which funds all our activities," added Baruga.

The situation has left many Hepatitis B patients and those that could seek early vaccination of the deadly disease incurring huge costs in private health facilities.

Reports from the national organization of persons living with Hepatitis B (NOPLHB) puts the Hepatitis B prevalence rates of Kasese at 10% against the national figure of 8%.

Kenneth Kabagambe the NOPLHB executive director while addressing Kasese district stakeholders at Virina Gardens in Kasese town recently revealed that 80% of the liver cancer cases registered at Uganda Viral Institute are as a result of Hepatitis B.

Kabagambe therefore urged Kasese leaders to lay out achievable strategies of fighting the disease with focus on budgetary allocations to purchasing of testing kits and medical treatment rather than relying on private health sectors and the health ministry.

"Leaders in Kasese should prioritize the vaccination of Hepatitis B because Kasese is one of the districts in the country with the highest prevalence rate," said Kabagambe.

In 2012, the ministry of health sent to Kasese a consignment of Hepatitis B vaccines meant for the vaccination of district health workers but it ended up being sold on the black market and in private clinics.

Even the health workers who were supposed to be vaccinated were not vaccinated since the drugs from the district health store were sold.

It's upon this background that the ministry stopped sending any other vaccines to the district until it accounted for the previous ones.

An estimated 240 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis B globally and approximately 780,000 persons die each year from the disease according to statistics by the World Health Organization.