06/12/21

Omicron: Africa health worker jab rates under a third

healthcare worker
Vaccine acceptance among healthcare workers is extremely low, with only a fifth of healthcare workers in Egypt agreeing to be jabbed for example. Copyright: UNICEF Ethiopia, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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  • WHO analysed data from 25 African countries on healthcare worker vaccination against COVID-19
  • Only 27 per cent of healthcare workers fully vaccinated
  • Governments must increase COVID-19 vaccination efforts amid the threat of the new COVID-19 variant

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[BLANTYRE, MALAWI] As Africa grapples with the potential threat of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, only 27 per cent of healthcare workers are fully vaccinated against the virus, a WHO statement said.

That compares with more than 80 per cent of healthcare workers in high-income countries, the WHO said.

“Africa already suffers from [a] shortage of health workers and, one unnecessary COVID-19 infection among health workers is one too many.”

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Office for Africa

In many African countries, vaccine acceptance among healthcare workers is extremely low, with only a fifth of healthcare workers in Egypt agreeing to be jabbed for example, according to a SciDev.Net story.

“What we need is to find ways to address their fears and worries, address reasons for their reticence,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional director for Africa, told a press conference on 25 November.

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While vaccine supply constraints affected the continent in the early days of the campaign, there has been improvement in financing and logistics, leading to more doses arriving.

“We are at a point where opportunity is growing for access to the vaccine. We care about our health workers and we want you protected because we need you,” said Moeti.

She said ramping up vaccination is even more urgent now as Africa faces the risk of the fourth wave of the virus, following the outbreak of the new Omicron variant.

“Africa already suffers from [a] shortage of health workers, and one unnecessary COVID-19 infection among health workers is one too many,” said Moeti.

“Vaccine is the best defence.”

Richard Mihigo, programme area manager for immunisation and vaccine development at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, said that countries with low uptake of the vaccine among healthcare workers include Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

However, he said African countries such as Botswana, Cape Verde, Kenya, Lesotho and Rwanda have high levels of acceptance of the vaccine among health workers.

Media training

Apetsianyi Yawa, coordinator for the technical working group for the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines in Togo, said her country had achieved 93 per cent uptake of the vaccine among healthcare workers, and attributed the achievement to intensive social mobilisation.

“We trained the media to help us in spreading correct information. We had a team of communication experts whose task was to track misinformation and rumours on social media and debunk them with correct information,” she said. Yawa added that the high-level involvement of national authorities and professional associations, upstream planning and periodic monitoring of efforts also aided the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines among health workers and the general population.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk