The Government introduced the Public Health (Amendment) Bill 2021 to Parliament on 03 February 2022, with the aim of repealing outdated provisions of the old Act and revising fines for offenses committed.
The Department of Health maintains that the Public Health Act, which was enacted in 1935, was never amended to meet emerging public health challenges.
In the bill currently being considered by the Parliamentary Health Committee, the Department of Health is proposing tough new laws with far-reaching ramifications for citizens.
He warns that anyone who fails will face heavy fines and prison terms of between six and 12 months once found guilty.
The main point of dispute in the bill is Article 27, which obliges Ugandans to be vaccinated or pay a fine of 200 exchange points (Shs 4 million) or be imprisoned for six months or both. for refusal to comply.
In section 11, the bill ensures that a licensed medical practitioner will not destroy bedding, clothing or any other item infected with an infectious disease unless ordered by the court.
Some health experts, however, say it would put the community at risk, as the legal process could take time, but such decisions must be made quickly in the case of a highly contagious disease.
The bill in section 32 also states that all persons with knowledge of an outbreak in humans or animals but refusing to report such an outbreak will be considered criminals and face six months imprisonment or will pay a fine of 4 million shillings. or both.
But some stakeholders, despite being pro-vaccination, argue that forcing people to get vaccinated against their will is a violation of medical and human rights.
For example, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), a professional body that brings together all qualified and duly registered doctors in Uganda, says the proposed laws are draconian and may not achieve their objective.
Dr Richard Idro, a senior pediatric neurologist and senior lecturer at Makerere University who is also the former president of UMA, said the Ministry of Health was creating a situation of laziness and instead punishing citizens after have failed in their own mandate.
“We should not force people to get vaccinated. All we have to do is educate people. If mothers are educated, they will join. Ugandans are listening, all we have to do is educate them through different platforms such as mainstream media, places of worship and social media,” Dr Idro said.
WBU Vice President Dr Edith Nakku-Jolaba says it is important to first obtain consent from individuals before giving them vaccines.
Dr John Mugisa, secretary of the ECASA Group of Consultants Ltd, explains that heavy penalties risk sending people underground, which will negatively impact vaccination efforts in the country.
But some lawmakers on the committee say it is necessary to allow the government to keep citizens safe.
“We know there are side effects of the Covid-19 vaccination. But why are people against vaccination when we have also seen so many deaths? We need to bring scientific evidence to advise and encourage our people,” said Mrs. Margaret Makhoha, MP for Namayingo District. If the bill passes, spitting in public will be a criminal offense punishable by up to 12 months in jail or a fine of 150 currency points (Shs3m) or both, once convicted.
While Section 27(n) of the original statute prohibits spitting in public places or in public vehicles, there is an exception for receptacles that might be provided in public spaces for this purpose. The bill, however, aims to repeal the use of receptacles in public places.
Rather, Article 13 suggests that where a licensed physician or medical practitioner certifies that a person is suffering from an infectious disease, which, in order to guard against its spread, can only be treated or cured in a hospital.
However, WBU members, who argued that some patients were using public means to travel to medical facilities, disputed this.
“Public transport service providers must provide receptacles. Some patients use public transport, so should they stay home and die? Dr. Herbert Luswata, general secretary of the association, interviewed.