The story of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination in Africa is slowly unfolding, as more and more countries across the continent receive shipments of the long-awaited vaccines.

These early shipments won’t be enough for all. Some countries have used up the limited supply they have received, while others are still waiting. But some have them, and don’t want them. This is a key challenge that vaccination drives face: vaccine reluctance.

In order to understand public perceptions around COVID-19 and COVID vaccines, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) launched a 15-country study.

The study’s initial data was collected between August and December 2020. We found that the willingness to accept a COVID-19 vaccine was highly variable across the countries surveyed.

However, there was generally a positive perception of the importance and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine, though a significant proportion of people expressed concerns around vaccine safety. This was driven by a mix of being influenced by mis- and disinformation, a lack of accurate information, and distrust in government or international bodies.

Since the study was completed, the public has been exposed to a lot more information. This makes things more complicated as it comes in dribs and drabs, creating a fertile ground for rumour-mongering. For instance, on the real, albeit rare, risks of blood clots.

There are also now concerns that some of the vaccines have expired, although health officials encourage continued use as new vaccines typically start with a shorter suggested shelf life which increases as the vaccine is monitored over longer periods of time.

Moving forward, it is vital for health authorities and public policy makers to understand public attitudes and what is driving them. This is key in guiding much-needed communications and engagement strategies in the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts.

Read the full article about concern around COVID vaccines in Africa by Heidi Larson at Global Citizen.