KAMPALA, Uganda–(Mohamed Zaky)–
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Africa Bureau today urged Uganda’s government to rethink its decision to impose steep penalties for those who do not get vaccinated against COVID-19. This call follows news reports and a parliamentary statement, which reveal that the East African Country’s Parliamentary Committee on Health is deliberating proposed law to imprison or fine anti-vaxxers under the Public Health Amendment Bill, 2021. According to the Parliamentary Committee on Health statement, the proposal suggests that individuals who refuse COVID-19 vaccination should face a fine of Ssh4 million or six months’ jail time as a strategy to ensure mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Proposing tough fines when robust community education and mobilization is lacking is a very poor public health strategy, which risks undoing some of the gains made in the COVID-19 response”, warns AHF Africa Bureau Chief, DrPenninahIutung. “Now more than ever, the focus needs to be targeted towards ramping up community sensitisation and education that are responsive to cultural norms by leveraging traditional and new media, while engaging community gatekeepers and organisations, influencers, and religious and political leaders to reach their spheres of influence on the importance of COVID-19 vaccines.”
“Furthermore, increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake will also require allaying fears, mistrusts, or misconceptions in order to strengthen confidence in the vaccines, and this can be done through targeted public health messaging that promote accurate information positively, bringing vaccines closer to the populace—especially the most vulnerable—and creating opportunities for communities to engage with health experts to respond to their concerns,” she added.
Recently, AHF teamed up with Africa’s fastest man, Ferdinand Omanyala to raise awareness about the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccines and encourage communities to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The call-to-action initiative is part of AHF’s strategies to address COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy under its Vaccinate Our World (VOW) campaign.