A preliminary research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) on level of Covid-19 vaccination among African health workers has revealead that only 27% of these have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving the bulk of the workforce on the frontlines against the pandemic unprotected.
According to the research, analysis of data reported from 25 countries finds that since March 2021, 1.3 million health workers were fully vaccinated, with just six countries reaching more than 90%, while nine countries have fully vaccinated less than 40% .
The research further stated, unless doctors, nurses and other frontline workers get full protection, nations risk a blowback in the efforts to curb this disease. “We must ensure our health facilities are safe working environments,”
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti recently in Brazzaville during a virtual press conference facilitated by APO Group stressed the need to have high vaccine coverage among health workers not only for their own protection but also for their patients and to ensure health care systems keep operating during a time of extreme need.
According to him, Africa’s shortage of health workers is acute and profound, with only one country in the region having the required health workers (10.9 per 1000 population) to deliver essential health services. Sixteen countries in the region have less than one health worker per 1000 population. “Any loss of these essential workers to COVID-19 due to illness or death therefore heavily impacts on service provision capacity.
“Based on data reported to WHO by countries in the African Region, since March 2020, there have been more than 150 400 COVID-19 infections in health workers, accounting for 2.5% of all confirmed cases and 2.6% of the total health work force in the region. Five countries account for about 70% of all the COVID-19 infections reported in health workers: Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
“The risk of health worker infection rises whenever cases surge. 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 end-of-year travel season, health workers will again face risks amid low vaccination coverage.
He added that 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,”
” All countries in Africa must 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 vaccine hesitancy. Recent studies found that only around 40% of health workers intended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Ghana and less than 50% in Ethiopia. Concerns over vaccine safety and the adverse side effects of the 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 uptake.
He however expressed WHO’s readiness in supporting national efforts to drive up health worker vaccination adding that 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 benefits and side effects of vaccination.