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Only 1 in 4 African health workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

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Only 1 in 4 African health workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

With a new surge in cases looming in Africa after the holiday season at the end of the year, countries must urgently accelerate the launch of vaccines for healthcare workers.

BRAZZAVILLE, Congo (Republic of), November 25, 2021 / APO Group / –

Only 27% of health workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving most of the workforce on the front lines against the pandemic unprotected, a preliminary analysis by the World Health Organization shows ( WHO).

Only 1 in 4 African health workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Analysis of reported data from 25 countries reveals that as of March 2021, 1.3 million healthcare workers were fully vaccinated, with only six countries reaching more than 90%, while nine countries have fully vaccinated less than 40%. In stark contrast, a recent WHO global study of 22 mostly high-income countries reported that more than 80% of their healthcare and healthcare workers are fully vaccinated.

“Most of Africa’s healthcare workers are still missing their vaccines and remain dangerously exposed to a serious COVID-19 infection. Unless our doctors, nurses, and other front-line workers get full protection, we risk a setback in efforts to curb this disease. We must ensure that our health facilities are safe working environments, ”said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Only 1 in 4 African health workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

It is important to have high vaccine coverage among healthcare workers not only for their own protection but also for their patients and to ensure that healthcare systems continue to function during a time of dire need.

Africa’s health workforce shortage is acute and deep, and only one country in the region has the necessary health workforce (10.9 per 1,000 population) to provide essential health services. Sixteen countries in the region have less than one health worker per 1,000 inhabitants. Any loss of these essential workers to COVID-19 due to illness or death therefore has a major impact on the ability to deliver the service.

According to data reported to WHO by countries in the African Region, since March 2020, there have been more than 150,400 COVID-19 infections in healthcare workers, representing 2.5% of all cases. confirmed and 2.6% of the total health workforce in the region. Five countries account for around 70% of all reported COVID-19 infections in healthcare workers: Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Only 1 in 4 African health workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

After nearly four months of a sustained decline, COVID-19 cases in the general population of Africa have stagnated. For the first time since the peak of the third wave in August, cases in southern Africa have increased, increasing by 48% in the week ending November 21 compared to the previous week.

The risk of infection for healthcare workers increases when cases arise. This is a pattern that has been observed during the previous three waves of the pandemic. With a fourth wave likely to hit after the year-end travel season, healthcare workers will once again face risks amid low vaccination coverage.

To date, more than 227 million doses of vaccines have been administered in Africa. In 39 countries that provided data, 3.9 million doses have been administered to healthcare workers.

Only 1 in 4 African health workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

“With a further increase in cases looming in Africa after the holiday season at the end of the year, countries must urgently accelerate the launch of vaccines for healthcare workers,” said Dr. Moeti.

Vaccine shipments have increased over the past three months. Africa has received 330 million doses from COVAX Facility, the African Vaccine Procurement Task Force and bilateral agreements since February 2021. Of these, 83% have been delivered since August alone. As vaccine supply increases, addressing acceptance bottlenecks and speeding up implementation becomes more critical.

All African countries have prioritized health workers in their vaccination plans. The low coverage is likely due to the availability of vaccination services, especially in rural areas, as well as doubts about vaccines. Recent studies found that only about 40% of healthcare workers intended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Ghana and less than 50% in Ethiopia. Concerns about vaccine safety and adverse side effects of vaccines have been identified as the main reasons for their hesitancy. Health workers are key sources of information for the general population and their attitudes can influence vaccine adoption.

Only 1 in 4 African health workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

“The COVID-19 vaccine is among the extraordinary scientific feats of humanity. In Africa, we are gradually overcoming supply constraints. Now is not the time to run into mistrust of vaccines, ”said Dr. Moeti.

Supporting national efforts to boost vaccination of healthcare workers, WHO is coordinating trainings and dialogues on vaccine safety and efficacy to help address questions or misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as to promote open and honest communication about the benefits and side effects of vaccination.

Dr. Moeti spoke during a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group. She was joined by Dr. Apetsianyi Yawa, Coordinator of the Technical Working Group for the Implementation of COVID-19 Vaccines, Togo, and Mr. Michael Ekuma Nnachi, National President, National Association of Nurses / Midwives of Nigeria, Nigeria.

Only 1 in 4 African health workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Also available to answer questions were Dr. Richard Mihigo, Coordinator of the Immunization and Vaccine Development Program, WHO Regional Office for Africa, and Dr. Thierno Balde, Regional Assistant Manager for COVID-19 Incidents, Regional Office for WHO for Africa.

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