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Up to 88% of sub-Saharan African adolescents COVID-19 vaccine-hesitant

A 2021 survey published yesterday in PLOS Global Public Health finds COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy of up to 88% among adolescents in some sub-Saharan countries, mostly because of concerns about vaccine safety and effectiveness.

A team led by George Mason University researchers fielded the survey via computer-assisted phone interviewing in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania from July to December 2021. The survey was a follow-up to one conducted with the same respondents in July to November 2020.

Respondents included about 300 adolescents aged 10 to 19 years from randomly selected households in a rural and urban area in each country but Ghana, which included only a rural area, for a total of 2,662.

The rate of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, defined as declining or being undecided about vaccination, was 14% in rural Kersa, Ethiopia; 23% in rural Ibadan, Nigeria; 31% in rural Nouna, Burkina Faso; 32% in urban Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; 37% in urban Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; 48% in rural Kintampo, Ghana; 65% in urban Lagos, Nigeria; 76% in urban Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and 88% in rural Dodoma, Tanzania.

Despite the proven safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, the top reasons for vaccine hesitancy were concerns about vaccine safety (adjusted prevalence ratio [aPR], 3.52) and effectiveness (aPR, 3.46). The people most likely to influence vaccine willingness were healthcare workers, parents or family members, and schoolteachers.

The study authors noted that while adolescents are less likely than adults to develop severe COVID-19, they can still spread the virus, and some do become severely ill and develop complications. In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescents aged 10 to 19 years make up 23% of the population, making vaccination of this group all the more crucial.

"Therefore, getting COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of adolescents is crucial for Africa to achieve the World Health Organization's target of 70% COVID-19 vaccination coverage by mid-2022," they wrote. "Further, adolescents may serve as agents of advocacy that encourage their family members and friends to get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccination campaigns among sub-Saharan African adolescents should address their concerns and misconceptions about vaccine safety and effectiveness."

[Source: By Lisa Schnirring, CIDRAP News, University of Minnesota, 06Oct22]

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