Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Health experts have asked Parliament to
expedite passing of the law to criminalise non-response to immunisation
following reports of a looming Polio outbreak in the country.
The experts from central and southern Africa also asked Uganda to
work with other states in the region to require polio vaccination for
travelers in order to stop the spread of the disease across borders.
The suggestion was made at the 23rd joint consultative committee for
the Director Generals from the East, Central and Southern Africa Health
Community (ECSA- HC).
Director General of health services Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng represented
Uganda in the three-day meeting taking place in Arusha, Tanzania.
The director generals want governments to set up vaccination sites at
airports and other points of transit for unvaccinated travellers.
The proposals come amid reports of polio outbreaks in Kenya and
Somalia with fears the killer disease could spread to Uganda and other
"To date, there are 100 Polio cases in Somalia and 10 in Kenya
putting the lives of Ugandan children at risk due to the heavy mobility
along the borders," the health ministry said in a statement.
The director generals urged member states to recognise the importance
of routine immunisation programmes to ensure that all children get the
The private member's Bill before Parliament makes immunisation
compulsory for children and women of reproductive age against
According to the Bill, parents who fail to take their children for
immunisation face a jail term of up to six months or a fine of
The delegates at the Arusha meeting supported the prosecution of
parents and other communities that are resistant to immunisation,
arguing that it is a child's right to be protected against immunisable
The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks immunisation highly as a
key child survival strategy that has over the years protected children
from the death.
"It is important that all parties on the ground, including local
leaders and communities work together in vaccinating their children and
protecting them from disabling diseases," said Dr. Samwel Okirio from
the WHO Africa office.
Uganda suffered a setback in immunisation
coverage in 2006 when the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI) suspended
cash support to the country following the misappropriation of US$4.3m
Immunisation coverage dropped from 83% in 2008 to 76% in 2009/10, according to health ministry statistics.
As the downward trend continued, the national immunisation coverage
reached 52% in 2011, turning Uganda into the same category of countries
like Somalia which have the lowest number of fully immunized children in
It is considered one of the most deadly vaccine-preventable diseases,
accounting for an estimated 777,000 childhood deaths per year
worldwide, with more than half of these occurring in Africa.
GAVI this year reinstated its cash support for immunisation with US$20m (about sh51b).
The Government Currently provides free vaccines in both public and
private health facilities in addition to routine mass immunization