Opinion: Claims of vaccine hesitancy in African countries are at odds with the reality on the ground

MBARARA, UGANDA — When word gets out that Covid-19 vaccines are locally available, crowds rush to Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital in western Uganda. Hundreds of people will wait for hours in the sweltering heat outside the hospital’s always full vaccination tent; many are turned away when vaccine doses run out.

As public health workers supporting vaccination efforts in Uganda — two of us (A.H. and S.A.) on the ground in Uganda — we are constantly confronted with the challenges of getting people vaccinated in places like Mbarara. The local vaccination team, responsible for an area with about one million people, sometimes gets shipments as small as 200 doses as a result of Uganda having only enough vaccines for 15% of its total population. People in rural areas often have no transportation to get to cities like Mbarara where vaccination sites are clustered. Even those living within walking distance frequently cannot afford to step away from their jobs to wait in line for hours, especially when uncertainty over local supply looms large.

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