Kampala – The foot and mouth disease that has for long been a menace to farmers could soon be history as Uganda gets closer to producing its own vaccine.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries through the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) is in advanced stages of establishing a local vaccine manufacturing infrastructure at Nakyesasa in Wakiso District to produce vaccines for ticks, foot and mouth disease.
According to the ministry, Uganda is expected to start manufacturing the vaccines in about two years.
This came to light on Wednesday, as the technical team from the ministry led by Ronald Ssegawa Gyagenda, the Undersecretary and Commissioner in charge of Finance and Administration appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (Central) to respond to the Auditor General’s queries for Financial Year 2020/2021.
“We are having plans to have both anti-tick and foot and mouth disease vaccines manufactured in Uganda through NARO and the facility at Nakyesasa has been set up. We are going to produce a strain vaccine which can be multiplied, but we have fast-tracked the one for ticks which has become so serious and it is now on field trial before we roll out the complete manufacturing,” said Fred Mayanja, Commissioner for Agricultural Planning and Development.
This response was triggered by concerns from the legislators on the committee who sought government intervention to curb the highly contagious and severe foot and mouth disease.
“What efforts are these wonderful scientists making to have this foot and mouth disease vaccine produced in this country?” asked Tororo District Woman Representative, Sarah Opendi.
Opendi criticised government for spending more than Shs50 billion to facilitate research and vaccine development for the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation but has not made any efforts to facilitate the Ministry of Agriculture to respond to cattle-related diseases.
In Africa, it is only Kenya and Botswana that produces the foot and mouth disease vaccine and this, according to Gyagenda, has impacted the timely supply of the vaccines from the suppliers.
He added that the supply of vaccines was inadequate in the country during the COVID-19 period because part of the elements used to manufacture foot and mouth disease vaccine is the same used to manufacture coronavirus vaccines.
Gyagenda also attributed the crisis to financial constraints in the ministry.
“The ministry every year budgets for the purchase of foot and mouth disease vaccine but the budget is too small to vaccinate more than 14 million heads of cattle,” he said.
The ministry has however, assured the country that government is heavily investing in research to have these vaccines manufactured in the country.