UGANDA – At least 800 people in Uganda received fake Covid-19 vaccines from unapproved people as the country is battling a surge in cases from the ongoing second wave.

The counterfeit jabs were administered over May and June during a deadly surge of the coronavirus in the East African nation, when new infections soared to record highs of about 1,700 cases per day.

The fraudsters targeted people looking to pay for immunization, including corporate employees, at a time when vaccines were in short supply, said Dr Warren Naamara, the director of a health services monitoring unit under the presidency.

Some unscrupulous individuals with intentions of making money, duped members of the public into a fake Covid-19 vaccine exercise,” Dr Naamara told AFP, adding that they have arrested two medical workers in the scam, and one medical doctor is on the run.

He said those conned into getting a fake vaccine should not be alarmed as tests indicated the vials contained nothing dangerous. “Some had water in them,” he added.

The scammers charged recipients between 80,000 and 500,000 Ugandan shillings (around $25-$120 / 20-100 euros) for a fake shot, officials said.

The health ministry said that the government was providing free and approved Covid-19 jabs at designated vaccination sites.

However, the country is marred with allegations of prioritizing luxuries over purchasing life saving Coronavirus vaccines.

It is reported that Uganda spent over US$30.2 million on buying new vehicles for lawmakers, a move that has been slammed by critics who depict it as profligacy in a country struggling to buy vaccines to stem effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since late May, Uganda has been gripped by a second wave of the coronavirus, fanned by the Delta variant.

A spike in cases overwhelmed hospitals and triggered shortages of key facilities including oxygen, beds and personal protective equipment like masks and hazardous material suits.

President Yoweri Museveni, ordered a lockdown that included shuttering of schools, all businesses except the most essential and bans on vehicular movement.

The government has so far failed to purchase any vaccines, with officials saying the country had been priced out of the market by richer buyers like the West.

Slightly over a million people have received a jab, all from donated shipments, out of a population of 41 million.

Uganda has so far, recorded 91,355 infections, of which 2,483 have been fatal, since the pandemic began, according to the health ministry’s latest tally.

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