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What is Driving COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in Sub-Saharan Africa?

This article originally appeared on the World Bank Blog. Below is an excerpt. 

2020 Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) survey in 15 countries found that while 79% of respondents would take a COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine hesitancy ranged from four to 38% (see figure 1 for more estimates). In a recent five-country Afrobarometer survey  six out of 10 citizens in Benin, Liberia, Niger, Senegal and Togo were hesitant to get vaccinated.

In Africa, there are multiple drivers of vaccine hesitancy . Concerns about safety, side effects, and effectiveness are widespread—and observed among health workers in ZimbabweGhanaSouth AfricaKenyaSudan, and Ethiopia. The Africa CDC survey noted that respondents  viewed COVID-19 vaccines as less safe and effective than other vaccines, similar findings have been observed in Uganda, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Mozambique, Burkina Faso,  Cameroon and South AfricaThe suspension of AstraZeneca’s roll out in some European countries, the South African data on its effectiveness and the temporary suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States to evaluate reports of  blood clotting, affected confidence in COVID-19 vaccination. Ultimately, AstraZeneca’s vaccine was refused by several African countries.

Access to social media has facilitated the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories. In the Africa CDC study, people with high levels of hesitancy were more likely to use social media and be exposed to disinformation. Half of those surveyed in South Africa believed the virus was linked to 5G technology. In another South African study,  approximately a third of those who would refuse the vaccine trusted social media as a primary source of information. A small study in Addis Ababa showed that hesitancy was 3.6 times higher among those who received their information from social media compared to those who relied on television and radio.

Trust in one’s government influences vaccination uptake. In West Africa, Afrobarometer reported high levels of mistrust in governments’ ability to provide a safe vaccine. Those who did not trust their government were five to 10 times less likely to want to be vaccinated. In Ghana, 40% of those who are unwilling to be vaccinated cited mistrust of the government while in South Africa, those who believed the president was doing a good job were more likely to be vaccinated.

Religious beliefs also inform vaccine acceptance. Close to 90% of individuals surveyed in Niger and Liberia said that prayer was more effective than the vaccine. A recent Geopoll survey in six African countries showed religious beliefs as key determinants of  hesitancy.

Read the full blog here

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