The Ministry of Health announced last week that it has started issuing new standardised yellow fever vaccination cards as a measure to avert forgeries. This is a welcome move, especially for Ugandans intending to travel, many of whom have been inconvenienced upon reaching Entebbe Airport, when it is discovered that they either do not have the certificates or were carrying certificates that were issued by unauthorised facilities.
One such incident is of a journalist who was travelling to the South Sudan capital, Juba. On the first trip, he did not have a certificate and officials at the airport offered to help him acquire one. Upon returning to Entebbe from Juba, the certificate was confiscated and he was forced to take another jab, the officials claimed the certificate, with which he travelled to Juba was forged.
This is just one of the many stories of forgeries. Like the said journalist, another traveller went for jab at a certified clinic in the city centre a day before his trip. At the airport, his certificate was confiscated because it was just a day since he had acquired the certificate. Like the journalist, the officials again tried to extort money from the traveller.
The question herein is where does the problem lie, is it in the lack of certificates, or at the airport? Is there a deliberate attempt to frustrate travellers just so that they release some money out of fear of missing their flights?
That the Health ministry is offering the first 50,000 certificates free is also a welcome development. Ugandans who will try to acquire the certificates after the 50,000 might have to pay to get the certificates.
Payment for the new certificates should not be the problem. The problem will arise if after Ugandans have acquired new certificates, the government initiates another process for whatever reasons, and Ugandans have to again get new certificates. At this point it will have become a vicious cycle, one that might be interpreted as an attempt at making a process of extracting money from the unsuspecting public.
The ministry should role out a process that is transparent and credible. Ugandans should be helped to understand this process, like many processes that have been initiated by the government.
The process of issuing certificates should be one that is aimed at eliminating the viral haemorrhagic fever and not one that is aimed at enriching clinic owners and a few unscrupulous officials.
The issue: Vaccination
Our view: The process of issuing certificates should be one that is aimed at eliminating the viral haemorrhagic fever and not one that is aimed at enriching clinic owners and a few unscrupulous officials.