A preliminary analysis by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown that only 27% of health workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated against covid-19, leaving the bulk of the workforce on the frontlines against the pandemic unprotected.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Moeti Matshidiso disclosed this during a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group on Thursday November 25, 2021.
TheFact Nigeria observed that many Health workers in Africa still held on to their belief in conspiracy theories hence refusing to get vaccinated.
According to Dr. Moeti, analysis of data reported from 25 countries revealed that since March 2021, 1.3 million health workers were fully vaccinated, with just six countries reaching more than 90%, while nine countries fully vaccinated less than 40%.
In sharp contrast, a recent WHO global study of 22 mostly high-income countries reported that above 80% of their health and care workers were fully vaccinated.
“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,” said Dr. Moeti.
She reiterated that it was 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 kept operating during a time of extreme need.
The WHO Regional director emphasised that Africa’s shortage of health workers was 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.
She further disclosed that sixteen countries in the African region had 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”, Moeti added.
“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.
“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.
“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.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa announced that vaccine shipments have been on the rise over the past three months. Africa has received 330 million doses from the COVAX Facility, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and bilateral agreements since February 2021. Of these 83% have been delivered since August alone.
Other speakers at the conference included: Coordinator, Technical Working Group for the Deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Apetsianyi Yawa,
National President, National Association of Nigeria Nurses/Midwives, Mr Michael Ekuma Nnachi, Coordinator, Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr. Richard Mihigo, Regional COVID-19 Deputy Incident Manager, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr Thierno Balde.