Uganda Extends Vaccination Campaign to Bars, Theaters

Africa needs timely access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines (file image).

Kampala — Uganda is scaling up coronavirus vaccinations with the arrival of another 1.6 million doses from the United States. But with many Ugandans still reluctant to get the shot, the Ministry of Health has taken the unusual move of reaching out to people at bars and entertainment venues.

This week, nurses dressed in white pitched white tents at two bars in Kampala to offer protection from the coronavirus. Some patrons, who appeared tipsy, said they had come to encourage others to get the vaccine.

The Ministry of Health says many people are avoiding hospitals and clinics, so it has partnered with beverage companies to set up the unusual vaccination sites.

Jackline Tahakanizibwa, spokesperson for Uganda Breweries Limited, said, "Many of our people out there resonate with certain places ... our bars, our distributors, our patrons. We are trying to create locations that are convenient for them, where they feel comfortable going."

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Ministry of Health spokesperson, says the ministry had to be creative to get past some people's hesitancy toward vaccines, caused by misplaced fear of side effects or misinformation.

So the ministry will use "any readily accessible and available place in the city. It doesn't matter the location," Ainebyoona said.

Uganda has so far received more than 5 million doses of vaccines from abroad. This includes 1.64 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 647,000 doses of the Moderna product from the U.S. government.

Pride Onyango, a rugby player who was getting his first vaccine at the Kyadondo rugby grounds, known for its beer-loving revelers, said he became scared after someone he knew died despite getting the vaccine.

"Sometime back, we had a scenario here," Onyango said. "One of our assistant club managers died after vaccine. We realized that he had pneumonia and typhoid. Those were the things that killed him."

Bars are officially closed in Uganda, and in a speech Wednesday night, President Yoweri Museveni said they would remain closed until a targeted number of people have been vaccinated.

Some bars continue to operate on the sly, while some roadside locations are selling beer along with dishes of chicken and beef.

Since that is the case, the Ministry of Health is taking advantage of the opportunity to get more of the population inoculated.

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