Unaware, Most Ugandans Miss 10-Yearly Dose Against Deadly Tetanus

Jovan Mulondo,13, spent 40 days in an induced coma at TMR International Hospital, fighting for his life after contracting Tetanus disease after an operation.

Mulondo’s mother, Victoria Nabiteeko from Kiteezi-Bamba village narrates that her son stepped in hot ash when he was ten years and six months, which burnt him and they had to take him to the hospital for corrective surgery on his foot. But eventually, the surgery wound picked the tetanus bacteria.

Nabiteeko narrated that her son started complaining that his jaw was locked and she took him to a nearby health center but unfortunately the health worker couldn’t understand the problem.

The mother further narrates that the following day Jovan’s health got worse and he couldn’t walk but the parents did not know what the real problem could be. She also said that they took the boy to a pediatrician at the Sure House on Bombo road and the doctor realized that the boy had a wound, so he told them that it was tetanus and he directed them to Mulago hospital.

“None of us knew the gravity of tetanus at that point, I talked to Dr. Sabrina Kitaka who directed us to Nsambya hospital to see a pediatrician, but it seems me most health workers there have never experienced tetanus and Jovan just became worse,” she states.

Dr Kitaka explained later that Mulago was then handling mild cases of tetanus, having no functional ICU for it for, hence the reference to Nsambya, where the capacity existed. 

Nabiteeko adds that on 29 December 2019 one of the Nsambya doctors suggested that the boy be taken to TMR International Hospital for better management and he was put in an induced coma for 40 days.

“Had I known that when children get 10 years their Tetanus vaccination gets expired I would have given my son a tetanus shot before his being operated,” Nabiteeko regrets.

Jovan’s mother said that he spent 165 million shillings to bring her son’s life back and that is not counting other expenses like feeding and other materials used in the hospital.

Michael Baganizi the Deputy Program Manager of Uganda National Expanded Program for Immunization -UNEPI while speaking to journalists at the Tetanus awareness run on Sunday that was flagged off from the city square to Mulago playgrounds, said that the Ministry of Health is to launch a massive tetanus vaccination drive for all age groups in Uganda to protect people from contracting the tetanus bacteria.

He adds that because of the ongoing vaccination against COVID-19 and now Ebola, they could not roll the program out soon until next year.

Pediatrician Sabrina Kitaka says that the ministry of health has put a lot of emphasis on neonatal tetanus prevention by vaccinating pregnant women and girls leaving out men who are also vulnerable to the Clostridium tetani bacteria.

She adds that at the moment Mulago hospital has got two boys battling with tetanus, underlining the need to vaccinate the boys and men against the deadly disease.

Tetanus is a preventable infectious disease associated with high mortality rates. Increased vaccination coverage in Uganda has resulted in substantial declines in the number of individuals diagnosed with tetanus.

However, there is still a large number of tetanus admissions and deaths over a decade at a national referral hospital.

Management of tetanus in adults often requires treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU), which is often not available or very costly, resulting in preventable deaths.

Sunday’s awareness run was under the theme Stop Tetanus. Participants contributed 50,000 shillings each and all the proceeds are to support the tetanus-impaired survivors while several people where given tetanus jabs.

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