By Sharon Atieno

Hesitancy and hoarding of vaccines by some developed countries are the main causes of the low uptake of COVID-19 vaccine in Africa, expert says.

These sentiments were shared by Prof. Walter Jaoko, Director of the Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) Institute of Clinical Research, University of Nairobi, during a virtual briefing hosted by the Africa Science Media centre (AfriSMC).

“The problem we have with COVID vaccines is the unfair distribution. You find that there are countries that have stockpiles of the vaccines, much more than their population; then there are some countries that have very little of these vaccines,” he said.

The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom are some of the developed countries hoarding vaccines, with some of them having more than three times the number required by their population, Prof. Jaoko noted.

As of today, Our World data shows that by population North America has the most vaccinations (37%), followed by Europe (32%), South America( 19%), Australia (15%), Asia (5%) then Africa (1.9%).

In Africa, Seychelles is leading with 70% of its population being vaccinated at least once, followed by Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa.

Additionally, Prof. Jaoko noted that whereas most propaganda against the COVID-19 vaccination originate from the West (developed countries), the majority of the implementers of the propaganda are in developing countries leading to vaccine hesitancy in the regions.

He observed that Africans, even in areas where the vaccines are easily accessible, were buying into the propaganda while the West are increasing their vaccination rates.

The Director highlighted the importance of equitable distribution of the vaccine, noting that “when more people are vaccinated, more people will be protected and there will be less mutations and less variants.”

He called on African countries to take part in ongoing clinical trials, as it will help in determining the efficacy of the resultant vaccines among Africa populations.

Commenting on why Africa does not produce its on COVID-19 vaccines, the Director of KAVI said the biggest challenge is the low levels of investment in vaccine manufacturing infrastructure. He supported the push for regional approach to vaccines manufacture in Africa, adding:

“Africa should leverage on the strengths of regional blocks, such as the East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), among others, to develop regional centres of excellence for vaccine manufacturing.”