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How can West Africa address COVID-19 vaccine inequity?
April 29, 2022 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
A combination of factors in West Africa have led to low vaccination rates in the region:
The World Health Organization (WHO) had set a target for achieving full COVID vaccination rates of 40% in every country by the end of December 2021. This target has been missed across most of Africa. As of 21 April 2022, only 16.2% of the population on the continent is fully vaccinated.
Low risk perception related to the underreporting of COVID-19 cases:
Accurate COVID-19 case data in Africa is difficult to collect, resulting in a skewed picture of the real positivity rate. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) study, 67% of people with COVID-19 on the continent have no symptoms. However, information of asymptomatic cases, which would push up the positivity rate, is largely unavailable as testing in most countries in Africa is limited to symptomatic individuals. Official confirmed COVID-19 data also show extremely low death rates across Africa, but it is known that many if not most COVID-19 deaths are underreported, particularly where testing is scarce, and most deaths occur at home.
Whatever the reasons are why people are not vaccinated: lack of access or a lack of trust in vaccines, the outcomes are the same: citizens are less protected from SARS-CoV-2 infection and from serious COVID-19 disease than they could have been, given what we know about vaccine science.
In West Africa, Ebola science gave researchers a head-start with tackling COVID-19, and journalists too. In this dialogue we draw on this experience and invite journalists to a media dialogue with Dr Mosoka Fallah, known in the region for his science-focused leadership in the Ebola response. He is now serving as Africa CDCs Technical Assistance Team Lead for the Saving Lives and Livelihoods (SLL) Programme.