Will Africans take COVID-19 vaccine?

Initially, there was so much misinformation on Covid-19 vaccines out there, a development that made national governments and health officials to be wary of the acceptability of Covid 19 vaccination. However, with over 700 million vaccine doses administered worldwide as of April 19 2021 according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), albeit with only a few in Africa, the latest survey by a group of scholars has provided an insight into which countries in Africa is Covid 19 vaccination’s acceptability or hesitancy highest.

A recent survey conducted by a multidisciplinary team of university scholars across 14 countries has shown that Liberia has the highest Covid 19 vaccination’s acceptability in Africa. The questionnaires were administered in English, Arabic and French languages, comprising questions on demographics of the respondents, self-reported health status and literacy, knowledge and perception of vaccines as well as their willingness to be vaccinated, among others.

The survey results indicated that 69 percent of Liberians said they would receive Covid 19 vaccination. South Africa came second of the chart as 62 percent of its nationals also indicated they would accept Covid 19 vaccination. Acceptability rate in Malawi is 58 percent; 56 percent in Tanzania, while in Morocco and Nigeria, the level of acceptability is 55 percent each. On the contrary, Cameroon has the least vaccination acceptability among the African countries surveyed. Only 18 percent of Cameroonians said they would accept the vaccination. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the level of acceptability is 26 percent while it is 39 percent in Egypt.

The multidisciplinary scholars that conducted the survey were from Nigeria, Rwanda, Cameroon, Ghana, Sudan, South Africa, Morocco, DRC, Liberia and Malawi. Others came from the United States of America, France and Germany.
The study was led by AbdulAzeez Anjorin, a virologist from the Lagos State University, Ojo., other members of the team are Ismail Odetoun( University of Ilorin); Ajibola Abioye (Harvard University-USA); Hager Elnadi(Tours University-France); Mfon Valencia Umoren(Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Ohio, USA); Bamu Fufor Damaris(Hannover Medical School, Hannover-Germany); Joseph Eyedo(Lagos State University); Jean Baptiste Nyandwi(University of Rwanda); Mena Abdalla(Minya Health Insurance Hospital, Egypt); Sodiq Olawale Tijani(LUTH); Kwame Sherrif Awiagah(Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana); Gbolahan Idowu(Lagos State University); Sifeuh Noussi Achille Fabrice(Buea, Cameroon), and Aala Mohmed Osman Maisar (International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan).

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We also have Youssef Razouqi(Sultan Moulay Slimane University Beni Mellal, Morocco); Zuhal Mhgoob Ebrahim Mohammed (El Nileen University Khartoum, Sudan); Salim Parker(University of Cape Town); Osaretin Emmanuel Asowata(University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa); Ismail Olayinka Adesanya(US Army Reserve & Hospitalist, BayouCity Physicians); Maureen Obara(Hannover Medical School); Shameem Jaumdally(University of Cape Town Lung Institute); Gatera Fiston Kitema(University of Rwanda and St-Andrews University); Taofik Okuneye( General Hospital Odan, Lagos Nigeria); Kennedy Mbanzulu(University of Kinshasa-DRC); Hajj Daitoni(Malawi and Islamic Health Association of Malawi); Ezekiel Hallie(University of Liberia); Rasha Mosbah(Zagazig University), and Folorunso Fasina(University of Pretoria, South Africa).

“A total of 5,416 individuals completed the survey. Approximately, 94% were residents of 34 African countries while the others were Africans living in the Diaspora. Only 62% of participants surveyed were willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. A total of 79% were worried about the side effects of the vaccine, and 39% actually expressed concerns that they might get infected by receiving the vaccine”, the report says.

“The accelerated development and approval of COVID-19 vaccines, therefore, offers a unique opportunity for the prevention and control of COVID-19. The extent to which vaccine hesitancy may limit the success of vaccine distribution is unclear. The objective of this study was to assess the potential coronavirus vaccine hesitancy, and explore the determinants of vaccine hesitancy among Africans”, the report adds.

Further, 53.7 percent of the respondents were males while 46.3 percent were females, but vaccination hesitancy is higher in male (45%), than female (41%). Put in other way, 55 percent of the male respondents indicated acceptability of the vaccination unlike the female respondents where 59 percent said they would vaccinate.

In terms of age distribution, the modal group is aged 25-34 years old, which constituted 38.1 percent of the respondents. Those aged 18-24 years constituted 22.8 percent; 35-45 years old 22.4 percent, which means, the respondents aged 18-44 years accounted for 83.3 percent of those surveyed by the researchers. Most of the respondents, that is, 77.8 percent, are university graduates, which further explain while 24.2 percent and 67.4 percent of them live in semi-urban and urban areas respectively.

West Africa accounted for 1 in every 3 respondents surveyed. In other words, 29.9 percent of the respondents came from West Africa; 19.2 percent from East Africa; 18.1 percent from North Africa; 15.6 from Central Africa; 11 percent from Southern Africa, and 6.2 percent were Africans in the Diaspora.

At 72 percent, Southern Africa has the highest vaccination acceptability rate; while on the contrary, Central Africa at 67 percent has the highest vaccination hesitancy rate. 66 percent of East Africans are willing to receive vaccination; acceptability rate in Southern Africa is 72 percent; 55 percent in West Africa; 33 percent in Central Africa, and 63 percent among Africans in the Diaspora.

Another interesting insight from the survey is that the more you earn the more the willingness to receive vaccination. This is so because 50 percent of the low income earners were willing to receive vaccination. 56 percent of respondents within the income range of $100-$499 would receive vaccination. 69 percent of respondents within income range $1000-$4999 expressed their readiness to receive vaccination.

The income group with highest vaccination acceptability earn between $5000 and $9999, as 73 percent of them expressed their willingness to receive Covid 19 vaccination. 68 percent of income group $10,000 to $14,999 would receive vaccination while 66 percent of those that earn $15,000 and above would also receive vaccination.
Economic conditions of many individuals worsened due to the measures taken to curtail the pandemic. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy slipped into recession for the second time in five years in 2020, but managed to get out of it with marginal quarterly GDP growth in the last quarter of 2020.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose for yet another occasion in the country as about 23 million Nigerians are in the labour market plus an inflationary trend that is as high as 18.17 percent as of March 2021.
But there is hope on the horizon. As economies relax restrictions, a lot of countries hard hit by the pandemic are now beginning to release positive GDP growth results. For instance, China grew by 18.3 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a corresponding quarter in 2020. In the United States, the Bank of America has raised the country’s annual growth to 7.7 percent in 2021.

The survey results will further boost optimism in Africa, because once most Africans are vaccinated, restrictions will be further relaxed and there will be higher productivity on the continent.

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