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Involve Stakeholders in COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Setting, Mak Bioethicists urge Government

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By Joseph Odoi

As Uganda rolls out vaccines in an effort to kick out coronavirus, Bioethicists from Makerere University have urged Government to involve all stakeholders in priority setting for COVID-19 vaccination.

This call follows a latest study which sought to establish ethical and social issues for COVID-19 vaccination in the country.

While disseminating preliminary findings of the study titled ‘Ethical And Social issues for COVID-19 vaccine priority setting and access in Uganda’, Associate Professor Joseph Ochieng from the Department of Anatomy, College of Health Sciences (CHS), Makerere University said one of the most effective ways for public buy-in for new interventions is effective stakeholder engagement using the down-up model so that all stakeholders feel they have a say and their input is valued.

“When people are adequately involved in the decision making, they tend to adequately accept the results and take them up because they feel they own them. So we set out to access the different stakeholders whether they’re aware of the ethical issues associated with priority setting and how they’re going to handle priority of vaccine access in Uganda,” he explained while at Anatomy Department Building on 19th March, 2021. 

Prof. Ochieng further noted that there should a proactive, open (to the public) and evidence-based engagement of as many stakeholders as possible in these and related processes.

’This is important to build and sustain public support to and trust in health systems, all of which are critical in ensuring an equitable and efficient health system’’ he added

With regard to priorities, the Bioethicists state that since the quantities for the COVID-19 vaccine coming in are small, there should be a pre-determined evidence-based criterion for deciding who gets what first, and who should lose out or wait for the next opportunity

“Setting those priorities of who is vaccinated when has a number of ethical and social issues with questions.

We came up with this study to see how we can contribute to this issue of priority setting and vaccine access so that everyone feels it’s a fair process. If people believe it’s fair, then it’s ethical and acceptable and likely to be taken up,” Prof. Ochieng explained.

Findings

As Part of the preliminary findings, Dr. John Barugahare, Co-investigator and Senior Lecturer at Department of Philosophy, Makerere University said COVID-19 could be controlled by first attending to people who are likely to spread the disease like travelers; including truck drivers who have been associated with this disease whenever they traverse the country.

“We’ve heard from taxi drivers and conductors saying that they’re exposed to the risk of infections from passengers everyday by virtue of their work and they increase the risk of transmission to other passengers. However, they don’t understand why the elderly in rural areas are having priority over them,” he said.

Dr. Baruhagare further says that there is need to harmonize WHO immunization guidelines by setting priorities which fit into the local context as each country has its unique challenges.

Moving forward, the researchers recommend public engagement to create awareness on vaccination guidelines

“If the guidelines are developed, they should be freely available and well publicized. There should also be a continuous process of priority setting,” Prof. Ochieng noted.

“In future, such processes of setting priorities should be more open and transparent. There should be sufficient efforts to involve the public and seek opinions on what they think as opposed to having a few individuals to guide in the decision making process,” added Dr. Barugahare.

Funded by the World Health Organization (WHO), the study involved key informant interviews and in-depth interviews with a number of key stakeholders in COVID-19 intervention like bioethicists, clinicians, public health experts, policy makers, lawyers, human rights activists and scientists.

Health

MU-JHU Position: Training & Development Coordinator

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Participants in the two-day MU-JHU hybrid meeting discuss the upcoming IMPOWER-022 study, the HPTN 084 DSMB results and the changing landscape of HIV Prevention studies in Uganda, April 2021.

The Makerere University-Johns Hopkins (MU-JHU) Research Collaboration – MU-JHU CARE LTD, a Kampala – based equal opportunities Clinical Research and Service Delivery Organisation with more than 350 employees is seeking interested, committed and reliable professionals with the described qualifications to apply for the position of Training & Development Coordinator.

Training & Development Coordinator – 1 position Description and purpose:

The successful candidate has overall responsibility to plan and administer programs to ensure that employees have the skills and knowledge to compete effectively and meet the organization’s business objectives including direct training as well as support to content specialist trainers. The successful candidate will be responsible to liaise with middle management to identify training needs and support talent retention and development strategies with senior management.

Required qualifications and profile:

The successful candidate will be an experienced professional with hands on experience coordinating training and development programs in a large corporate setting, preferably in a similar health and/or research environment. The ideal candidate must possess a minimum of Bachelor’s degree in Education, Training, with a post graduate degree in HRM or a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management. A relevant Masters level degree is desirable. The candidate should have proven ability to complete the full training cycle (assess needs, plan, develop, coordinate, monitor and evaluate) and experience with e-learning platforms and direct adult training and train the trainer methods, including on-the-job coaching and mentorship programs. The ideal candidate must have a minimum of 3 years’ experience working as a HR practitioner. Experience working in a health related research organization will be an advantage. The candidate should be MS Office proficient in MS Office packages. The ideal candidate should possess advanced organizational skills with the ability to handle multiple assignments and strong written and oral communication skills as well as emotional intelligence.

The holder of this position will work under the supervision of the Human Resources Manager and will be responsible for the following duties:

1. Develop a robust training policy and related procedures for the organization

  • Conduct organization-wide training needs assessment and identify skills or knowledge gaps that need to be addressed
  • Mapping out training plans and schedules, designing and developing training programs (outsourced or in-house)
  •  Source for training opportunities to enhance staff performance including advanced training for individuals and participation in grant writing for training/capacity development grants
  •  Assess training effectiveness and determine the impact of training on employee skills and KPIs Maintain an updated training database
  •  Ensure planning, monitoring, and appraisal of employee work results by training managers to coach employees.

2.  Support the HR team carry out HR operational requirements.

Applications with complete C.Vs, including 3 referees and their full addresses or contact Tel No.’s, copies of academic certificates and testimonials, should be hand delivered to: The Human Resources Manager, through reception Room 10, located in MUJHU 1 Building or sent by email (application should not exceed 15MBs) to hroffice@mujhu.org – not later than 30th April, 2021 by 5:30p.m. Only short listed applicants will be contacted.

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World Health Day 2021 – Op-Ed by H.E. Veestraeten & Prof. Wanyenze

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The Dean, Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH)-Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze addresses participants at the EVAWG Bazaar on 6th December 2018, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) Innovation Lab, Plot 30, Upper Kololo Terrace, Kampala, Uganda

As we mark World Health Day 2021, the Ambassador of Belgium to Uganda, H.E. Rudi Veestraeten and the Dean, School of Public Health, Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze co-authored an Op-Ed in line with the theme; Health Equity, a fairer and healthier world.

“Health is critical and especially now, with COVID-19 so World Health Day should receive more attention” remarked Prof. Wanyenze.

Please click the link below to access the full Op-Ed

https://uganda.diplomatie.belgium.be/sites/default/files/content/download/files/world_health_day_2021_op-ed.pdf

The same has been published on Page 18 of the New Vision, Wednesday, April 7, 2021 under the Comments & Letters Section

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Mak Unveils C-19: COVID-19 Mobile Contact Tracing App

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Project Principal Investigator, MakSPH's Dr. Harriet Babikako (2nd R), the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health's Dr. Ezekiel Musasizi (1st R) and Dr. Ezekiel Mupere (1st L) and Mr. Haron Gichuhi (2nd L) after the application launch at Child and Family Foundation Uganda Offices, Kampala.

By Joseph Odoi

As government strives to reduce community spread of the novel coronavirus, Makerere University researchers have developed a mobile application that digitizes the investigation, case, and contact tracing for COVID-19 in communities.

With Funding from Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF) and Partnership from Child and Family Foundation Uganda and Ministry of Health, the application is designed to investigate case and contact tracing for COVID-19, timely reporting and decision making to improve the efficiency of COVID-19 response and capture community feedback.

While launching  the application under project titled ‘’C-19’’, Dr. Harriet Babikako  the Project lead  said her team was inspired by the need to  address the existing challenges of trekking long distances for hours to ascertain information in regards to suspected or even confirmed cases of COVID-19, delayed communication and  responses, loss of contact lists and transcription errors .

“Currently, Community surveillance teams have to trek distances for hours to go and find information from suspected or even confirmed cases. Therefore, challenges such as incomplete identification of contacts, delays in communication, and response, loss of contact lists, inadequate data collection, and transcription errors exist, making the system slow, and inefficient. Thus information exchange between involved parties is too slow and expensive because, by the time a response is generated, the disease is spreading. This means the spreading of COVID-19 is not solved efficiently” she explained in a zoom session on Tuesday 30th March 2021.

Dr. Harriet Babikako-the Project lead delivers her remarks at the Application launch.

As part of the features, the application has various COVID-19 self-assessment components on its Epi -COVID Tracer Dashboard. This enables the app user to undergo self-screening or screen others using different prompts.

The application also boasts of support services that include COVID-19 Laboratories and hospitals all authorized by Ministry of Health. One can consult Private Doctors and Counsellors on the App through WhatsApp or other call options.

In terms of reservation, the application system enables one to book for a COVID-19 test from the nearest authorized laboratories .This is done by filling a lab booking form which locates the test center near you.    Additionally, it also enables different user’s right from Community, VHTs District Task Force DTF and National Task Force NFT by filling the contact tracing form.

An interface of the C-19 Mobile Contact Tracing App

On the relevance of the app to School going students, Haron Gichuhi a health informant and Co-Investigator of the project; said this mobile application empowers health workers within schools to appropriately screen students and allows them to manage/refer probable cases of COVID-19.

“Now that schools are open, School nurses can use the application to carry out tests and refer students to nearest laboratories with in their proximity.

“The application also gives the students their COVID-19 status and advises them on preventive methods like self-isolation” noted Dr. Gichuhi of the ambitious innovation which took 6 months to create

On cost effectiveness, the researchers say the app addresses the concept of high costs to government. This is because the application is available to communities like market vendors, schools, individuals.

On uniqueness of the mobile innovation, the researchers cited decision making, quick scanning of information, case management and peer checking for other colleagues as special qualities ingrained in the application.

With this app, one can  book a COVID-19 test with MOH authorized Laboratories and hospitals on the application and also  consult a private doctor or a private counsellor. This can be done within any citizen’s comfort with just a click on their phone.

Mr. Ezekiel Musasizi from Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Makerere University, (Co-investigator) says the team is in the process of translating the app to different languages to cater for all classes of society

In her final remarks, Dr. Harriet Babikako thanked Ministry of Health, Partnership from Child and Family Foundation Uganda and the Government of Uganda efforts towards supporting research and innovation through Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF). The launch attracted virtual participants from academia, non-government organizations, students, development partners, the media and Ministry of Health.

MORE ABOUT PROJECT TEAM

The C-19 Project was implemented by researchers and innovators from Makerere University with funding from Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF).

The Project /innovation team includes; Dr. Harriet Babikako from Makerere University School of Public Health (Principal Investigator), Dr. Vincent Michael Kiberu (Co-Pi) and Dr. Ezekiel Mupere (Co-Pi) from Department of Pediatrics and Child Health and Mr. Haron Gichuhi (Co-PI and Health Informant).

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