Health authorities in Uganda have found fake Hepatitis B vaccines at some of the country’s health facilities, including in the capital of Kampala.
Uganda’s Ministry of Health released a statement saying that the fake vaccines were found during routine checks at health facilities in four districts, The Washington Post reports. Some suspects have been apprehended in the fraud, where dozens of the fake doses reportedly came from India.
Sarah Opendi, the state minister for health, said that some of the counterfeit vaccines were traced to Kumate Diagnostics, Ltd. and Forever Green Enterprises, according to local news outlet New Vision. The vaccines could actually have been the real deal, but stolen from government facilities and switched by unscrupulous individuals, the ministry added. Opendi said,
From the ones we have in our custody, it seems they just scratched off the word ‘government of Uganda. Not for sale’. They could have stolen them from government hospitals and sold to the clinics.
Preliminary investigations have shown that the vaccines are not harmful.
The clinics where the fake vaccines were found include Mbarara Community Hospital, Divine Mercy, Mayanja Memorial, Family Doctors Clinic Ntungamo, Mbarara City Clinic, UMC Hospital Bukoto, Malcolm Healthcare Kisaasi and Kampala Medical Chambers.
Opendi said, “We shall advise the public on other facilities that have been cleared for Hepatitis B vaccination in two weeks.” In the meantime, Ugandans are advised to get vaccines from accredited health facilities. The government has suspended vaccinations for Hepatitis B at health camps, until private companies have been cleared.
The scam has fueled concerns about corruption in Uganda’s health sector that has already been plagued by long-running problems. Fake drugs continue to be a primary concern across Africa.
Last year, a Ugandan lawmaker died of complications due to Hepatitis B, bringing widespread attention to the virus. Hepatitis B attacks the liver, and can become a chronic illness.
In Uganda, the rate of Hepatitis B incidences is 10%, which is higher than the rate of HIV, according to recent government figures.