Covid-19 and Vaccine hesitancy in Africa
The coronavirus pandemic has, no doubt, reshaped the world as we know it and it is highly unlikely that everything will return, one hundred percent, to how it was before the pandemic.
One of the major issues that has been brought, again, to the fore is the issue of vaccines and their acceptance, or lack of it.
The issue of vaccine hesitancy or outright vaccine refusal did not start with the covid-19 vaccine. Almost all the vaccines ever produced in the world have met with criticisms from different quarters, hesitancy by some and total rejection by many others.
Yet, it is arguably generally accepted that vaccines are one of the most important inventions of science in all of history.
What causes vaccine hesitancy?
There are a number of reasons why many people are not enthusiastic to take vaccines, especially experimental ones such as the covid-19 vaccines.
They include: Genuine apprehension, religious factor, cultural factors, ignorance, clinical accidents during trials, the low impact of covid in Africa, fake news, e.tc.
Genuine Apprehension: Of course, as human beings, we are all careful about what goes into our bodies. So it is quite understandable if one expresses some misgivings about taking a vaccine such as the covid vaccine, many of which were given accelerated and emergency approval, just within months of production.
Also, the fact that these vaccines offer minimal protection against the virus, as evidenced by the fact that one can still contract the virus even after being fully vaccinated, does not help matters.
Religious Factor: Some of the coronavirus vaccines currently being administered to people were made using tissues from aborted fetuses. This has posed a very challenging issue for many religious organizations, especially Christianity and Islam.
The Catholic church – with over two billion members across the globe - is vehemently opposed to any form of abortion. And as expected, the church has written to direct its members to stay away from such vaccines that his fetal tissues in their makeup.
Many other popular religious leaders in Africa has also made several unverified, and largely false claims about the covid vaccine. Some has likened it to the mark of the beast that signifies the end of the world as recorded in the Bible, in the book of Revelation.
Similarly, Islam as a religion also strongly opposes abortion, and popular Islamic clerics around the world has openly criticized the inclusion of fetal matter in the covid-19 vaccine.
Christianity and Islam are the two biggest religions in the world and in Africa, hence it is no surprise why many Africans are hesitant about receiving the vaccine.
Cultural factors: Many African cultures are still wary of “the white man and his ways”. Many believe that nothing good can come from “the white man”.
These beliefs are fueled from historic tales of how “the white men” forcefully took over African territories, forced the people into slavery, and made them live in perpetual servitude.
Taking the above into consideration, it would take some work to convince such people that “the white man”, all of a sudden, means well for them, by offering them the covid-19 vaccine.
Ignorance: It is simple. Many are absolutely ignorant of what the vaccine is about, or how it can protect them from diseases. So how can one agree to take what one has no idea about?
Clinical accidents during trials: In 1996, global pharmaceutical giants, Pfizer conducted a trial for a drug called Trovan in Kano, North-West Nigeria. The exercise went awfully wrong and led to the death of 11 children, with many others disabled.
It was only in 2011, 15 years after, following series of court cases, that four of the affected families were compensated with the sum of $175,000 each.
Accidents like this further dampen people’s confidence in participating in drug trials or taking experimental drugs and vaccines.
Low impact of covid in Africa: Africa was projected to be the hardest hit by the covid-19 pandemic. However, for some reasons that scientists find baffling, Africa appears to be the lowest impacted continent by the virus.
This has further fueled the fake news making the rounds that covid-19 is a non-existent virus, or that it is not as deadly as it is being made to appear.
Therefore, many are not in a hurry to take a vaccine against coronavirus, a disease many say is not any different from the everyday flu that they recover from without medication.
Fake News: There is arguably no singular issue that has generated more fake news since the advent of social media than the coronavirus pandemic.
There have been videos of people collapsing immediately after receiving the covid-19 shot; peoples’ arms becoming magnetic as a result of the vaccine; or peoples’ arms being able to power a light bulb at the spot where the covid-19 vaccine was administered.
The internet is full of videos of phantom conferences where the major issue of discussion was how to drastically reduce Africa’s population through the covid-19 vaccines.
All these stories, fake stories, being spread about the covid-19 vaccine have greatly fostered vaccine hesitancy in the African continent.
Another major issue contributing to vaccine hesitancy across the globe is the seeming high-handedness of political leaders in trying to get their citizens to take the vaccines.
Making pronouncements that mandate every citizen and resident to take the covid-19 vaccine has so far proven to be counterproductive.
Instead of seeing an increase in the number of vaccinated people, the world is witnessing an increase in the number of anti-vaccine protests across different countries.
Experts say there would not be such a time when vaccine hesitancy or intolerance would be totally eradicated, but if a particular vaccine has proven effective over the years, then hesitancy to such a vaccine will be greatly reduced.
We have the small pox, yellow fever, and polio vaccines as examples of vaccines that have attained some sort of global acceptance.
Right now, the covid-19 vaccines in circulation cannot be called ‘vaccines” in the strictest sense of the word. They are at best drugs that minimize the impact of covid-19 in a human body.
Perhaps when we truly have a covid-19 vaccine, one that protects from the virus, one hundred percent, then the issue of acceptability will be discussed in a more detailed manner.
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