The Ugandan government is working on a new law that would mandate citizens to pay a fine if they refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Failure to pay could lead to some jail time, according to lawmakers.
The public health law currently being amended by the parliament is partly to protect vulnerable citizens from infection and re-infection, among other reasons.
“The bill has a section on vaccination and immunisation as a public health measure to protect the vulnerable,” she said. “When we introduce new vaccines, we need to get a mass of people so we create mass immunity. It is important that whoever is supposed to be vaccinated, is vaccinated,” Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng told lawmakers on Monday.
With total infection cases estimated at 163,112 and vaccination rates still at 7.2%%, the East African country is struggling to reach its goal of vaccinating all individuals that are 18 years and above, comprising approximately 22 million people, or half of Uganda’s population.
Only about 16 million doses have been administered in a population of 40 million people since the country received its first vaccine doses a year ago, leading the Parliament’s Health Committee to review the Public Health (Amendment) Bill of 2021.
The new law proposes a fine of 4 million Ugandan shillings ($1,139) for those who fail to get vaccinated.
“According to the proposal, those who do not get vaccinated against COVID-19 will be fined 4 million shillings or [receive] a jail term of six months,” parliament said in a statement on its website.
Meanwhile, scientists working on a Covid-19 vaccine in Uganda have told legislators on the Presidential Affairs Committee that trials will commence in early March 2022.
A molecular virologist at Uganda Virus Research Institute, Dr Sheila Balinda, said the institute had developed a vaccine using Covid-19 strains that were experienced in the country. She added that they have also built capacity to manage epidemics in the future.