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Vaccine Manufacturers Asked to Prioritize Sensitization to Gain Trust


The Executive Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu, has urged vaccine manufacturers to disclose the side effects of the vaccines to the public.  

Kaleebu believes this is one of the avenues that can be exploited to offer transparency which is crucial for gaining public trust and combating vaccine hesitancy, particularly in the global south. He was speaking to journalists at the media science café organized by the Health Journalists Network in Kampala.   

Vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite the availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context-specific varying across time, place, and vaccines.  

According to a 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) report, one in five children globally still do not receive routine life-saving immunizations, resulting in an estimated 1.5 million preventable child deaths annually. This issue is often exacerbated by misinformation and complacency among parents.   

In January 2024, the Ministry of Health announced plans to hold individuals accountable who campaigned against COVID-19 vaccination, leading to low vaccine uptake. This decision followed an Auditor General’s report revealing that COVID-19 vaccines worth 28 billion shillings had not been used and were slated for destruction.  

According to Kaleebu, individuals who de-campaign vaccination pose a significant threat to public health and are ranked among WHO’s top ten threats.

“People who are against vaccination are a big threat to public health, and in fact, they list them among the top ten threats to public health. the population is what it is now because of vaccines, so we need to encourage vaccines, those who are fighting it, are a threat,” He said.

In 2022, records from the Ministry of Health indicated that while over 10.2 million people, representing 48 percent of the targeted 22 million, had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, many did not receive the recommended booster doses.  

Prof. Kaleebu noted that people who de-campaign vaccination have partly contributed to the growing vaccine hesitancy in the country. He also pointed out that many individuals hold negative beliefs based on myths, religion, and culture, which prevent them from taking vaccines.  

However, Prof. Kaleebu acknowledged that while many people have been misled by those spreading incorrect information about vaccines, several others have genuine safety concerns. He cited an example from the 1950s when a poorly manufactured polio vaccine caused polio itself, leading to an uproar and a loss of trust in vaccination campaigns.

Prof. Kaleebu urged manufacturers to prioritize public safety by disclosing any issues related to their vaccines. He emphasized that providing accurate information, rather than denying problems, can prevent dangerous alarms when people learn about side effects privately.

Dr Henry Kyobe, an epidemiologist in the Ministry of Health said that many people who de-campaign vaccination use social media to mislead people but urged all stakeholders to provide necessary information and counter the growing trend of fake news. 


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