The Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has defended the amendment to the Public Health Act saying that it is important to revise the penalties in the law and also consider emerging diseases like COVID-19, Ebola and others.
Dr. Aceng today appeared before Parliament’s Committee on Health which has started considering the Public Health (Amendment) Bill, 2021 tabled before the House early this month.
Under the new Bill, persons who fail to comply with a requirement for vaccination will be fined up to four million Shillings or a prison sentence of up to six months.
The Bill provides that in the event of the occurrence or outbreak of any disease that requires vaccination or re-vaccination for residents, a local government council shall issue a public notice requesting all persons to undergo inspection, vaccination and re-vaccination.
According to the Bill, a person who fails or neglects to comply with the requirement made under this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 20 currency points, which is equivalent to four million shillings, or imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or both. The same penalty is proposed for a parent or guardian who fails to present their child for vaccination within 12 months from birth.
The object of this Bill is to amend the Public Health Act to repeal obsolete provisions, to revise the fines for offences committed under the Act, to repeal the Venereal Diseases Act, and the Immunization Act 2017, among others.
The Bill also requires a school to retain a copy of the certificate of immunization of every child who is admitted to the school. Under the Bill, Government also requires giving of compulsory information or production of any document or other evidence required for the purpose of tracing the source, for purpose of preventing the spread of any infectious disease.
“A person who contravenes any rule made under this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred fifty currency points or to imprisonment not exceeding twelve months, or both,” provides the Bill. 150 currency points are equivalent to 3 million Shillings.
Dr. Aceng said that the amendments are import because the highest fine in the Public Health Act is two thousand Shillings that needs to be revised. The Minister also noted the importance of capturing other emerging diseases like Covid-19 in the new proposed piece of legislation and also regulate funeral homes in the Local Governments where they operate.
Dr. Aceng emphasized the need for all citizens who are supposed to be vaccinated to do so and that tough measures await those who do not get vaccinated.
Dr. Charles Ayume, the Health Committee Chairperson says that the proposed Bill is long overdue since it seeks to ensure safety of Ugandans. He also said that the penalties in the current law are not punitive enough.
The committee is scheduled to start interfacing with different stakeholders and receive views on the government proposals this week.
The Bill follows a notification given to Parliament in December 2021 by Health Minister Aceng that she would table a proposed law on Public Health to provide for mandatory vaccination, wearing of masks and others. Aceng made the statement while responding to different queries by Members of Parliament in regard to the government’s preparedness to combat the new COVID-19 variant – Omicron.
In her presentation to Parliament then, Dr. Aceng noted that her Ministry was preparing to table the Public Health Bill to cater for a number of issues including mandatory vaccination, wearing of face masks and penalties.
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