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73% of health workers in Africa not fully vaccinated

Friday November 26th 2021

Only 27% of health workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows.

Its preliminary findings of data reported from 25 countries has found that since March 2021, 1.3 million health workers were fully vaccinated and only six countries had reached more than 90% of workers. In nine countries, less than 40% of health workers were fully vaccinated.

This compares with more than 80% of health and care workers who are fully vaccinated in 22 high income countries.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said: "The majority of Africa's health workers are still missing out on vaccines and remain dangerously exposed to severe COVID-19 infection.

"Unless our doctors, nurses and other frontline workers get full protection we risk a blowback in the efforts to curb this disease. We must ensure our health facilities are safe working environments.

"It is important 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."

Africa has a shortage of health workers, with only one country in the region having the required health workers of 10.9 per 1000 population to deliver essential health services, while 16 countries in the region have fewer than one health worker per 1000 population.

According to WHO data, there have been more than 150,400 COVID-19 infections in health workers since March 2020, accounting for 2.5% of all confirmed cases and 2.6% of the total health work force in the region.

Five countries - Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe - account for about 70% of all the COVID-19 infections reported in health workers.

To date, more than 227 million vaccine doses have been administered in Africa and according to 39 countries that provided data to WHO, 3.9 million doses have been given to health workers.

"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," said Dr Moeti.

WHO says the low coverage is likely because of the availability of vaccination services, especially in rural areas, as well as vaccine hesitancy.

Recent studies found that about 40% of health workers in Ghana and less than 50% in Ethiopia said they would have the vaccine.

Praising the efficacy of the vaccines, Dr Moeti said: "Now is not the time to stumble over vaccine mistrust."

WHO is co-ordinating training on vaccine safety.

Tags: Africa | Flu & Viruses | Pharmaceuticals

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