It is claimed that individuals close to President Museveni got jabs of China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine months ahead of health workers and other vulnerable groups.
The Wall Street Journal, an American newspaper, reported on Thursday last week: “Members of President Yoweri Museveni’s inner circle were offered vaccines from China state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm.”
The newspaper investigation report claimed that in Peru and the Philippines, the practice master-minded by the Chinese government and intended to encourage their vaccines was also confirmed.
Nearly 500 politically-connected citizens, including then-President Martin Vizcarra, were secretly vaccinated in Peru during a clinical trial, it said.
Mr Don Wanyama, President Museveni’s senior press secretary, denied the allegation, saying that the country is still waiting for doses of the vaccine and that priority will be given to front-line workers when it comes.
“What do they mean by inner circle? It is not true, from the best of my knowledge, people in Uganda have not received the vaccine, at least not yet,” Mr Wanyama told Daily Monitor yesterday.
He added: “The President has made it clear that we expect doses of the vaccine soon and when it does, the criteria of who gets immunised first is known, starting with frontline workers, the more vulnerable, and then the rest. There is no category called inner circle.”
Asked about the alleged action by the inner circle of Mr. Museveni to secretly receive the Covid-19 vaccine, Mr. Emmanuel Ainebyoona, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said that “there is no such a thing.”
By press time, attempts to reach the Chinese Embassy in Uganda for comment were futile.
In December of last year, however, the government of Uganda cleared the Chinese Community of Liao Shen Industrial Park in Kapeeka, Nakaseke District, to import 4,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine into the country for its own use.
The Health Minister, Dr. Ruth Jane Aceng, then told the Daily Monitor that the vaccine was still under investigation and was strictly for Chinese nationals.
“They wanted it for themselves, we said strictly limit it to yourselves, we do not want it to spread in the population. Uganda imports vaccines that are World Health Organisation prescribed, assessed for safety… , that is the vaccine we bring for the population and we have applied for it through Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation,” Dr Aceng said.
Asked how the government would prevent the masses from accessing the vaccine, Dr. Aceng said that the vaccine would come in small amounts and be delivered directly to the Chinese embassy.
Mr Zhang Hao, Liao Shen Industrial Park’s managing director, said that the vaccine was not intended for clinical trials, but for the Chinese business community to keep investors safe.
“The vaccine is to be administered to strictly Chinese nationals in the Liao Shen Industrial Park upon seeking consent and whoever has registered to take the vaccine will cater for their own costs and risks. This will not affect the Ugandan government in anyway,” Mr Hao said.
Dr Aceng stated last week that the country expects to receive donations and buy vaccines directly from China.
The ministry is hoping to receive vaccine donations from the Covax facility by March. Parliament also approved a down payment of Shs18.5 billion from the Serum Institute of India for the AstraZeneca vaccine.