In the UK, two thirds of the adult population are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Across the rest of the world, however, the vaccine rollout has faced a number of obstacles - a shortage of supply, vaccine hesitancy and a lack of cold chain technology to transport the jabs. As countries in Africa face a surge in infections while battling their third wave, statistics from the World Health Organisation show that less than 2 per cent of the African population are fully vaccinated. Having navigated their way through misinformation and difficulties accessing the vaccine, some people tell us why they chose to get the jab.
Kiki Mordi, 29, investigative journalist and media personality based in Lagos, Nigeria
I did a lot of research on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is currently the only vaccine option available for Nigerians. Friends and family in the US had the option of choosing their vaccine but I didn’t have that. I was concerned about the side effects but Covid-19 scared me a little bit more. I had watched a dead body wheeled out less than five meters from where I was seated to take my first Covid-19 test in 2020 and the fear that put in me was real. After months of hustling, I finally got my first dose alongside some oil company workers and this was facilitated by their employers.
I experienced heavy arms, stomach pains, dizziness and a general sense of weakness on my first dose but I’m ready to go do all that again for my second dose in a few weeks. After I got sick in March 2020, I had to cancel my trip to Geneva and return to my Lagos flat to self-isolate. Besides the trajectory of my career taking a huge change, my biggest lesson was that I couldn’t afford to get sick in Nigeria because no little help was going to come my way. This was my driving force in finding and taking the vaccine.
Fatima Zehra, 23, student teacher, London, UK
As a student teacher, I wanted to get vaccinated as soon as I could given the nature of my job. Working my way through placements at different schools meant that I came into contact with vast quantities of children, who were of course part of wider social bubbles. I’m 23 and my age counted against me when I tried to book my vaccination- student teachers or teachers generally were not on the government’s priority list.
In our profession, especially as primary school teachers, it’s very difficult to maintain social distance from the children at all times. We’re constantly handling material that the children have touched, whether this is their exercise books or worksheets they have completed. I was finally able to receive my vaccination entirely by chance, when I walked past a pop-up vaccination clinic near my house.
I’ve now booked my second jab, and will feel much more secure at work knowing that I’ve been fully vaccinated. It was great to walk in and get jabbed so easily at the clinic, but more official provisions should have been made for people who work in schools earlier on in the vaccination rollout.
Bernard Obuya, 25, development consultant living in Nairobi, Kenya
I got my first Covid-19 jab a few weeks ago because I am planning on travelling abroad soon. Let’s face it - a vaccine passport seems to be a likely eventuality. Before taking the vaccine I was very hesitant of the vaccine and I must admit that most of my reservations came from the misinformation that came from social media platforms. I believe in my country there hasn’t been a strong enough campaign to get people to understand the importance of the vaccine, as well as the safety of getting the vaccine.
It is quite unfortunate that some very important and well known religious leaders condemned the vaccines at the very beginning of the vaccine roll out in public, claiming the vaccine was aimed at population control in Africa. Despite the misinformation about COVID vaccines, the biggest reasons there is shortage in people getting vaccines in the country is the lack of vaccines. It is quite difficult to have a vaccine campaign if there aren’t any vaccines to begin with. There needs to be a better vaccine roll out globally in order to fight this pandemic.
Apple Chaimontree, 43, humanitarian worker, Chiang Mai, Thailand
I was deployed in a humanitarian response in Ethiopia and a few of our colleagues working in mobile clinics got infected. So our organisation liaised with the local health authority to get us vaccinated on a voluntary basis. I had no reservations about it - I know that our current vaccines are approved for emergency use and I felt well informed about possible side effects. But the risks of being in the field with Covid-19 outweighed the side effects.
I’ve come across a lot of people who are sceptical about the vaccine though, mainly concerned about the side effects. I think overall people are feeling panicked and worried. Having a strong government that communicates with transparency and confidence helps, but unfortunately not every government does that.
Amba Mpoke-Bigg, 50s, communications manager based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
I absolutely believe that vaccination is the way to protect myself and everyone else from the virus. It has been a horrible pandemic - I have personally lost friends and family members. Vaccines are proven to be effective and safe. I want to go for it and I believe it’s the right thing to do. I am over 50, so count myself in the ‘at risk’ bracket.
I had the AstraZenca vaccine provided by COVAX, made by the Serum Institute of India. I had my first dose in Ghana and, unusually, my second dose seven weeks later in Abidjan - because it was the same vaccine. I was a little nervous at first, I had heard about potential blood clots, but overall I believed in the data and information that said you were better off having it than not. It’s just like any other vaccine that we had in childhood like measles and chickenpox. I understand the risks of not taking the vaccine are higher than having it.
There’s tons and tons of misinformation which has led to huge vaccine hesitancy in Ghana and certainly in Côte d’Ivoire. A lot of people, even some of my colleagues, are vaccine hesitant. The rumours are anything from it is laced with deadly substances causing infertility, to it being a western plot to wipe out Africans. Unfortunately, a lot of people have bought into this and it’s a real challenge. There’s still a lot of misinformation about Covid-19 itself and people are willing to take their chances. In West Africa we have had a much lower death toll which means some people just don’t believe that Covid-19 exists. So they would rather not take any precautions.
Akuei Daniel Bol, 23, job-seeking economics graduate, Juba, South Sudan
The main reason why I got vaccinated is because my father has tuberculosis and asthma in the advanced stages. If I got corona I might resist it but I would infect him and I want him to be safe. Even if he’s vaccinated and I was worried that I could get a stronger variant and pass it on to him.
I got the AstraZeneca jab at Juba Military Hospital. There are only a few people going for the vaccine. People here are ignoring it because of the misinformation which has completely taken over - especially among the youths. The first thing I heard was that this vaccine would stop you from reproducing. That was a huge piece of misinformation ad I was a little scared but I researched it and saw that it was not an issue. The only problem was the blood clotting, but I was sure I was not going to be affected because I am very slim and I have never had a stroke. The other thing I heard is the the vaccine is engineered with microchips that will control you. They also say that Juba is too hot for coronavirus - they are trying to build a reason not to take the vaccine. But at the end of the day I understood that this was misinformation. If millions of people all over the world have done it then who am I to say it’s not safe?
I had other things in mind, what if I was going to travel out of the country, what if I wanted to go to Uganda and the borders are closed? My family is there. My coronavirus vaccine certificate is a necessity for me now.