HEPS Uganda together with Global Health Collaborative is partnering to implement the Advocacy to Accelerate Access to COVID-19 Vaccines in Uganda project. The project code-named VAX project involves a series of activities based in Uganda to catalyze urgent action toward COVID-19 vaccine equity.
Through these activities, the project aims to achieve increased civil society’s capacity to advocate for an end to COVID-19 vaccine nationalism, increased funding by national and international stakeholders for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in Uganda, accelerated implementation of proposed waivers for intellectual property rights of COVID-19 technologies and engagement in technology transfer and improved population awareness of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness and safety.
According to Kenneth Mwehonge, the HEPS-Uganda Executive Director, as the inequitable global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines threatens to become one of the largest moral failures in history, governments of vaccine-producing countries, Uganda’s Ministry of Health, and other organizations still have real opportunities to strengthen the vaccine supply and delivery systems.
This project is implemented by GHC — which is leading COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the city of Mbarara and has experience organizing dozens of funded global health research projects across the country, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), which founded and has supported GHC since 2003 as well as HEPS – Uganda.
To achieve vaccines equity and accelerate access to COVID-19 vaccines across Uganda the project will implement a series of activities in response to challenges of vaccine nationalism by wealthy nations, insufficient local financing for vaccines, absence of local vaccine suppliers, and vaccine misinformation.
According to Mwehonge, “As a coalition, we will amplify the voices of Ugandan organizations calling for an end to issues like vaccine nationalism.”
He explains that through HEPS’s existing networks, the project will first conduct a mapping of CSOs prioritizing COVID-19 vaccine equity and host training workshops for these organizations to build their technical knowledge of COVID-19 vaccines and advocacy skillsets.
Also, the project will organize select CSO-led meetings with high-income country heads of missions in Uganda, seeking commitments to fully participate in COVAX and encourage vaccine donations to Ugandan communities, and coordinate CSO-led IEC campaigns, including press conferences, radio spots, and social media campaigns highlighting vaccine nationalism’s catastrophic effects.
In addition to supporting these efforts, MGH will continue to work with U.S. health care organizations and advocacy groups to rally behind Ugandan CSO activities and will advocate with Massachusetts lawmakers and U.S. officials to improve regulations such that excess vaccines can more easily be donated overseas.