A new report on Covd-19 in Africa shows widespread interest in vaccinating and the need for constant supply and additional logistical support

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According to a new study, people in African Union member states are more likely to be vaccinated. In 19 countries, 78% of those surveyed indicated that they were or were willing to be vaccinated.

Nonetheless, as of November 2021, the vaccination rate in Africa is less than 7%. This indicates that the gap between receiving the vaccine and the coverage demonstrates a substantial unmet need and that there is a need for a consistent and predictable supply of vaccines as well as the need to increase immunization programs in Africa. The report outlines preventive measures to reduce social and economic damage that may occur in the event of further movement, economic and social mobilization restrictions - in particular individual measures such as masks and social distance.

"We must urgently work to make safe and effective vaccines equitable access on the African continent," said Dr. John Nkangasong, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa. PERC data show that demand for vaccines is far greater than supply.

The vaccination approval rate is higher than the previous PERC survey (67%) earlier this year and now stands at 78%, which may indicate the success of risk communication campaigns. In the five countries surveyed: Guinea, Morocco, Mozambique, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe - acceptance was 90% or higher. Contrary to popular belief, such high rates of immunization in Africa are among the lowest in the world.

Among the 20% of respondents who expressed vaccine hesitancy, the top reasons were: low-risk perception (24%), not having enough information about vaccines (22%), and lack of trust in government (17%). The reasons for low-risk perception are complex, but officials can take concrete action to address them. Offering more and better information to people about COVID-19 and vaccines through trusted sources, particularly health care providers, coupled with consistent and reliable vaccine supply, can further increase acceptance. Respondents’ top information sources included local health centers, television, and radio.

A number of challenges have contributed to the failure to achieve higher vaccination coverage including Unpredictable supply, in terms of volume, timing, and shelf life—threatens countries’ ability to meet demand; When offered, vaccination is frequently inconvenient, requiring people to travel far distances or visit vaccination sites at inopportune times.

“I am heartened by the efforts of the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and the COVAX facility to expand vaccine access,” said Amanda McClelland, Senior Vice President of Prevent Epidemics at Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. “But there is still work to do. Vaccine donations sent too close to expiry dates, for example, leave countries unable to launch effective vaccination campaigns.”

COVID-19 preventive measures remain crucial to mitigate the health impact of the virus. PERC researchers analyzed what influences support for and adherence to such measures and found that individual actions—hand-washing, mask-wearing, and social distancing—all garnered support from at least 90% of survey respondents. Such high support suggests that these key measures can continue to be effective strategies for reducing COVID-19 transmission. 

Preventive measures restricting gathering or movement received less support. Unemployment and food insecurity were widespread among survey respondents and made adherence to restrictive community measures a challenge. PERC researchers concluded that such measures should be targeted to specific, high-risk populations as needed to minimize harm. Income loss also may have had an adverse impact on access to essential health services. Cost and affordability were cited as the primary obstacles to receiving care. Declines in the number of health visits have likely contributed to declines across key health indicators. PERC researchers advocate for urgent investment to stabilize health systems and regain progress lost during the pandemic.

“The PERC data enable policymakers to both save lives and minimize impacts on livelihoods,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President, and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. “The global community has an opportunity to invest in health care workers and public health infrastructure to support vaccine delivery and COVID-19 care and prevention in the near term, and also repair and restore health service delivery disrupted by COVID-19 for the long term.”

Based on their findings, PERC authors recommend: The global community should support AU Member States in supplying vaccines at a better coordinated and more systematic pace to allow broader, more effective and equitable distribution, resources and expertise to support vaccine delivery must be part of the supply machinery to ensure coverage; COVID-19 preventive measures are critical to mitigate COVID-19 transmission; promoting adherence must remain a top priority; Investments in preparing health security systems can be utilized both for COVID-19-specific responses and long-term priorities; Strengthening health data systems to be better prepared for health threats is critical; Investments should prioritize epidemiological data, as well as contextual data and data on community perceptions and actions toward countermeasures for disease mitigation and prevention; Together with the data itself, timely collection, analysis and dissemination are integral to systems strengthening and emergency response; The global community and national governments should invest—to the fullest extent possible—in public health infrastructure and social protection programs that build and maintain resilience, in order to improve health and economic outcomes and reduce the opportunity costs of vaccination. 

The PERC survey—the fourth in its “Using Data to Find a Balance” series—was fielded in September, when many countries in Africa were recovering from the third wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant and before the emergence of the Omicron variant. PERC polled approximately 23,000 people across 19 African Union Member States; compiled social, economic, and epidemiological data from a range of sources; and compared results from previous surveys conducted in February 2021 and August 2020.