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A new study by Dongqing Wang, assistant professor of Global and Community Health, finds there is high COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among adolescents in five sub-Saharan African countries mostly because of perceived lack of safety and perceived lack of effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
Only 22% of people living in Africa are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, according to Africa CDC, and this falls well below the global average of 64%. Vaccine hesitancy is one of multiple reasons that Africa has the lowest vaccination rate of any populated continent.
A new study by Dongqing Wang, assistant professor of Global and Community Health, assessed the prevalence and determinants of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among adolescents in five sub-Saharan African countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania) and found vaccine hesitancy to be high in all five countries and extremely high in Tanzania.
“COVID-19 vaccination campaigns among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa should address adolescents' concerns and misconceptions about COVID-19 vaccine safety and effectiveness,” said Wang. “Health care workers, parents, schoolteachers, peers, religious leaders, and social media could all be leveraged as channels of advocacy to support vaccination efforts.”
Individual characteristics associated with greater vaccine hesitancy were female sex, perceived lack of safety, and perceived lack of effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Beyond COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, it is crucial to ensure that vaccines are accessible should adolescents desire to be vaccinated, and it rests upon the global medical community to get the shots into the arms of the often-neglected population of sub-Saharan African adolescents,” said Wang.
The research was a multi-country survey in 2021 using computer-assisted telephone interviewing. This work was jointly supported by institutional support from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University Center for African Studies, Heidelberg Institute of Global Health (Germany), and the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and its determinants among sub-Saharan African adolescents was published October 2022 in PLOS Global Public Health.