ADDIS ABABA — A predominant majority of Africans would take a COVID-19 vaccine if it were deemed safe and effective, a newly published Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) survey revealed.
The survey, which was conducted by the Africa CDC in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and published late this week, has shown that “a predominant majority (79 percent) of respondents in Africa would take a COVID-19 vaccine if it were deemed safe and effective.”
Conducted between August and December 2020, the survey interviewed more than 15,000 adults, aged 18 years and above, across 15 African countries that are Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia, and Uganda.
Data from the survey shows significant variations in willingness across countries and across the five regions in the continent, from 94 percent and 93 percent in Ethiopia and Niger, respectively, to 65 percent and 59 percent in Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), respectively.
Rejection of a COVID-19 vaccine appears to be linked to misinformation and disinformation, as most of those who said they would not take a vaccine believe that the disease is man-made, does not exist, or is exaggerated and does not pose a serious threat. Others think they are not at risk of being infected with the virus while some others believe that natural remedies and alternative medicines are safer than vaccines, the survey disclosed.
The study also indicated that individuals who have had a positive COVID-19 test and are now well believe that they do not need a vaccine because they think they have become immune to the disease and can no longer be infected. Noting that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been a global decline in vaccine acceptability and uptake because of doubts about efficacy and safety and the spread of misinformation about vaccines, the Africa CDC stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has “further exacerbated controversies around vaccines as a preventive measure against infectious diseases.”
The study was therefore conducted to investigate public knowledge and perceptions about the COVID-19 pandemic and COVID-19 vaccine, thus identifying knowledge gaps, cultural beliefs, and attitudes to inform interventions for pre-deployment of vaccines across the continent.
Overall, willingness, or not, to take a COVID-19 vaccine depended mostly on trust in vaccines as well as perceptions of its importance, safety and efficacy, the study revealed.Safety was of utmost consideration, on average 18 percent of respondents believed that vaccines generally are not safe and 25 percent believed that a COVID-19 vaccine would be unsafe.
Some of the respondents expressed distrust for vaccines generally while others expressed distrust for a COVID-19 vaccine specifically. Respondents who are older, those who know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and those who live in rural areas are more inclined to take a COVID-19 vaccine than younger people, those who have not seen COVID-19 affect anyone, and those living in urban areas, according to the study.”This survey is an eye-opener that provides critical scientific evidence to guide interventions by Africa CDC, member states and partners for optimization of COVID-19 vaccine uptake across the continent,” says John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC.
According to the Africa CDC, the findings highlight the critical need for strategic engagement at the community level to address the long-term disapproval for vaccines and hesitancy to take a COVID-19 vaccine among some segments of the population. As of Saturday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the African continent reached 2,469,101 as the death toll due to the pandemic climbed to 58,313, according to the latest figures from the Africa CDC.