Bulk of Africa’s doctors and nurses are battling the pandemic without Covid vaccine protection, says WHO

·2-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Only one in four health workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, leaving the bulk of the workforce on the frontlines of the pandemic unprotected, a preliminary analysis by World Health Organization (WHO) shows.

Analysis of data reported from 25 countries finds that since March 2021, 1.3 million health workers in Africa, or 27 per cent, are fully vaccinated. In contrast, a recent WHO global study of 22 mostly high-income countries showed that 80 per cent of their health and care workers are fully jabbed.

“The majority of Africa’s health workers are still missing out on vaccines and remain dangerously exposed to severe Covid-19 infection. Unless our doctors, nurses and other frontline workers get full protection we risk a blowback in the efforts to curb this disease. We must ensure our health facilities are safe working environments,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Supporting national efforts to drive up health worker vaccination, WHO is coordinating trainings and dialogue on vaccine safety and efficacy to help address doubts or misconceptions around the Covid-19 vaccine as well as advocating open and honest communication about the shot’s benefits and side effects, the UN health body said.

After almost four months of a sustained decline, Covid-19 cases in Africa have plateaued. But for the first time since the third wave peak in August, cases in Southern Africa have increased, jumping 48 per cent last week. With a fourth wave likely to hit after the end-of-year travel season, health workers will again face risks amid low vaccination coverage, Dr Moeti told a news briefing.

Vaccine one of ‘humanity’s extraordinary scientific feats’

After a slow start, vaccine shipments have been on the rise over the past three months. To date, Africa has received 330 million doses from the COVAX facility, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and bilateral agreements. Of these 83 per cent have been delivered since August alone. As vaccine supply picks up, addressing bottlenecks and accelerating rollout become more critical, Dr Moeti said.

“With a new surge in cases looming over Africa following the end-of-year festive season, countries must urgently speed up the rollout of vaccines to health care workers,” she said.

The low coverage of health workers is likely due to the availability of vaccination services, especially in rural areas, as well as vaccine hesitancy, says WHO. Recent studies found that only around 40 per cent of health workers intended to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in Ghana and less than 50 percent in Ethiopia due to vaccine mistrust, which in turn can influence uptake among the general population.

“The Covid-19 vaccine stands among humanity’s extraordinary scientific feats. In Africa, we’re gradually overcoming supply constraints. Now is not the time to stumble over vaccine mistrust,” said Dr Moeti.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting