Government sued over NIN requirement for access to COVAX

By Deo Wasswa

Civil society led by the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Unwanted Witness and concerned Ugandans led by Namusoke Resitetuta, aged 78 years, a resident of Kakuzu village, Kalisizo sub-county in Kyotera district have dragged government to court over the mandatory requirement by the Ministry of Health for Ugandans to present either national identification card (NIC) or national identification Number (NIN) before receiving COVID 19 vaccines.
On the day the first batch of COVID 19 vaccines arrive in the country, the organisations dual in their lawsuit filed in the High Court, argue that it is illegal, irrational, unfair and discriminatory to condition COVID-19 vaccination on possession of NIN or NIC.

They ask the court to halt the requirement to have a NIC or NIN in order to receive a vaccine.

They want the government to carry out the Vaccination exercise by asking other valid documents such as LC letters, LC identification, Passport, yellow fever card among others because may Ugandans have lost their National Identity cards and Available data from NIRA as of much 2021, shows 6,519,629 Ugandans over 16 years do not have national IDs.

The Government of Uganda in its latest briefing revealed it plans to start vaccination on 10 March following receipt of initial doses of COVAX.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine today, the government plans to start the exercise with health workers, those over 50, those under 50 with pre-existing conditions, teachers, and security forces. “Why is the government doing so when it should be doing everything possible to contain this pandemic? We have neither required NICs nor NINs for vaccination before. Why now?” asked Allana Kembabazi programs manager at ISER shortly after filling the case at high court.

She added that the Constitution is clear about non-discrimination. Under Section 66(2) of the Registration of Person’s Act, 2015, possession of a NIC or NIN is not a prerequisite to receive health services, including COVID vaccines.

They caution the government to instead focus on rolling out COVID 19 Vaccines to everyone eligible as soon as possible and to engage with communities rather than impose additional barriers.