Love him, or hate him, Dr. Alfred Driwale, the Program Manager for immunization says while no one likes to be scammed, the 800 people allegedly vaccinated with fake vaccines bear the blame.
Seeming bothered by the scam but unsympathetic to the victims of the fake vaccine, Driwale, also an Assistant Commissioner at the Health Ministry says whoever took the vaccines out the designated points bears the responsibility of finding out about its efficacy.
“You thought your money can do everything. Now you are in it. Is it water? Is it urine? Is it stolen vaccine? It is you and the thief who knows. So you answer that question.” Said Alfred Driwale
“And if you got this kind of vaccine in ungazzeted place, we would encourage you to work with the police to give more information. Because this practice is unacceptable .it is hurts public health and it should stop.” Added Driwale
Driwale was one of the panelists at a joint media briefing by Twaweza Uganda and the Ministry of Health on Saturday. The briefing was about the emerging wave misinformation about the anti-coronavirus vaccination exercise.
His outburst follows reports that over 800 unsuspecting persons mainly in Kampala may have been vaccinated by counterfeit or fake vaccines for a fee.
The scammers allegedly targeted Banks like United Bank of Africa, Diamond Trust Bank, road works employees and those from some of the leading industries.
Driwale said the anti-COVID-19 or coronavirus vaccines being administered by the government in partnership with World Health Organization are free of charge.
He decried the growing cancer in the country where individuals or organization tend to circumvent the government processes and procedure in order to receive goods and services.
While Driwale says the victims of the scam are individually responsible fort colluding with wrong doers, there is fear at the Health Ministry and WHO that fake COVID-19 vaccines could erode public trust in much-needed jabs and encourage vaccine hesitancy.
The reported vaccine scam come at the time when more Kampala residents were rushing for vaccination in a bid to protect themselves against the Coronavirus to avoid COVID-19 ailments and deaths. A survey by Twaweza Uganda’s Sauti Za Wanainchi this week for that 7 out of 10 Kampala residents say they are willing to have the vaccination against Covid-19.
Most Kampala residents (68%) say they are willing to take the vaccine against Covid-19. The survey said Kampala residents trust the government to handle vaccine acquisition and distribution.
According to the survey, the three main institutions trusted by Kampala residents to acquire and distribute the Covid-19 vaccine are all government institutions: The Ministry of Health (36%), public health facilities (20%) and local governments (18%).
This is followed by the church (9%) and private health facilities (6%). Globally, only governments and multilateral agencies like WHO are supposed closely monitor the movement of the COVID-19 vaccines so that there is little room for bad actors to exploit.
According to Interpol reports, more than 80 people have so far been arrested in China and South Africa with over 5,000 fake COVID-19 vaccine doses Fake vaccines pose a danger to people’s health.
They may even contain harmful ingredients which can directly cause illness or death. Even if they are not contaminated, fake COVID-19 vaccines may give people a false sense of security whereby they assume they are protected when in fact they remain at heightened risk of getting and spreading the virus seized.
Driwale told URN that falsification or faking of COVID vaccines is unlikely to happen as long as they have been channeled to the established supply chain mechanisms.
Mid in June, a laboratory Assistant from a private Clinic in the suburbs of Kampala was allegedly found in possession of stolen AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Over 600 doses of the vaccines had been stolen from government facilities to private ones.
Driwale confirmed that unlike the fake “vaccines” impounded by the State House Health Monitoring Unit, some genuine vaccines were also impounded by the police having been stolen from districts out of Kampala.
The recipients, according to Driwale were still at risk in case the vaccines got spoilt while as they got smuggled out of government facilities.
“Those were good true vaccines which were meant for you. But some health workers who changed their title to thief removed them. You know when you are a health worker and you steal, you are no longer a health worker. You are now a thief” he said