Africa is seeing an increase in the delivery of vaccine doses to the continent, but only one in four of its health workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the World Health Organization regional office said Thursday.
The most common reasons for low vaccination rates among health professionals on the continent of about 1.3 billion people are vaccine hesitancy and the unavailability of vaccine services, especially in rural areas, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa director, told an online news conference.
It’s a striking contrast to more developed countries, where more than 80% of health and care workers in 22, mostly high-income countries, are fully vaccinated, according to a recent WHO survey.
Low vaccination rates among health professionals in Africa endanger not only their own health and well-being, but also that of the patients they care for, Moeti warned, calling on African countries to urgently accelerate the roll-out of vaccines for those on the front lines.
Africa has an acute shortage of health workers, and only one country in the region has the recommended number of health workers to provide essential health services.
Any loss of these essential workers to COVID-19 due to illness or death therefore has a major impact on service capacity, the WHO office in Nigeria said in a statement.
Many of Africa’s health professionals, including those who work in rural communities, still have concerns about vaccine safety and adverse side effects, WHO regional director Moeti said.
In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, only 300,000 or 18% of the 1.6 million health workers are fully vaccinated.
A recent study also found that only 40% of health professionals planned to get the vaccine, while less than 50% hope to get an injection in Ethiopia, the WHO said.
To increase vaccination coverage among health professionals in Nigeria, nurses and midwives need to be more involved in the vaccination process, said the president of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives.
With that, and through health education, many people will be convinced to take the vaccine, Michael Nnachi said. If the nurses are directly involved, we can achieve more.
About 7% of the African population is fully vaccinated, mainly because of vaccine delivery delays and vaccine hesitancy, Moeti said. But after challenging months to get needed supplies, Africa is now seeing an acceleration in vaccine availability.
As more doses arrive on the continent, more countries are introducing mandates often targeting government employees and public places to increase vaccination rates.
It will be good to see approaches of persuasion, information sharing, expanding capacity to deliver, intensifying campaigns and using that extra tool to further motivate people to get vaccinated as they need services what they need, Moeti said. .
(Only the headline and image of this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)