Since the mid-20th century, millions of Africans have died from diseases such as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, and tetanus—diseases that used to be commonplace in the developing world. However, while these diseases have been virtually eradicated in Europe and North America, they continue to ravage the continent of Africa. In an effort to curb the spread of these diseases once and for all, pharmaceutical companies release vaccines. But Africans are rejecting most of the vaccines due to concerns about effectiveness and side effects—and experts are also raising concerns about high costs.
What is Covid-19?
The Coronavirus is a virus that can cause serious respiratory illness and organ failure. The virus, named covid-19, affects primarily people in Africa and has also spread to other parts of the world including Asia, South America, Europe, and Canada. Covid-19 vaccine was developed by pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., but Africans have rejected the vaccine because they do not trust Western medicine or they don’t want to get vaccinated with an untested drug. They would rather wait for a new vaccine to be developed by African scientists instead of using one made by Europeans or Americans.
Why covid-19 vaccines are rejected in Africa?
The vaccine is not proven to work, which is worrying because of recent cases of measles outbreaks in developed countries with low vaccination rates. This lack of trust in medical professionals can be traced back to colonialism and its mistrust of Western doctors.
We know that Africans reject vaccines for a few reasons. Firstly, Africans tend to trust traditional medicine more than Western medicine. Secondly, there have been countless examples of western countries using Africa as a testing ground for new drugs. Thirdly, it is known that people who get vaccinations have higher chances of getting sick again than those who don’t get vaccinated.
Fourthly, people believe that children need to build up their immunity by having the disease before they can be vaccinated against it. Lastly, Africans are also wary of how these vaccines will affect African society if they become mandatory. They do not want to see an increased prevalence of mental health disorders or autoimmune diseases due to the presence of this type of vaccine.
Lastly, Europeans are rejecting covid-19 vaccines too: Europeans do not want to see autism rates increase due to the use of this type of vaccine. Some Europeans claim that the effects of this vaccine outweigh the benefits. In fact, some refuse to vaccinate their children at all. With limited information on covid-19 vaccines available, both groups (Africans and Europeans) seem to be reasonably skeptical about the introduction of this type of vaccine. Both continents seem to agree that they should have control over their own bodies, so the introduction of mandatory covid-19 vaccines may be met with resistance. Unless the world’s leaders decide to engage in active conversation with Africans and find out what concerns them, public health initiatives like mandating covid-19 vaccines may fail miserably. It’s difficult to fight an enemy you don’t understand, after all. While many advocates might argue that Africans need to get with the times and allow themselves to be experimented on for science, I’m sure we can all imagine how unappealing this option sounds.
What is important here is that each individual country has their own needs and problems; so any efforts towards global public health initiatives should take into account local cultural beliefs. If something doesn’t make sense in one culture, it might make sense in another culture. That is why the World Health Organization creates specific campaigns to target specific regions of the world. For example, when Ebola was first introduced in West Africa, schools were closed down to slow the spread of the virus. However, school closures caused riots in Nigeria and Sierra Leone due to religious beliefs. That being said, public health initiatives must be tailored specifically for different regions according to their unique set of customs and values. This is the only way to maintain cooperation and peace. As long as Africans are included in discussions and dialogue, public health initiatives that require Africans to be subjected to experiments will probably be met with more support. Africans don’t deserve to be used as guinea pigs without consent.
How to improve covid-19 vaccine acceptance in Africa?
In a 2012 case study, a large number of Eastern Province residents in Uganda refused to have their children vaccinated with a new A/H1N1 vaccine, because they were concerned about Western influence and that the vaccinations would cause children to become infertile. While this was an extreme example, it does illustrate how even well-intended interventions can be rejected for many reasons. Addressing these concerns is essential if one wants to make sure that these people have access to covid-19 vaccines. There are three steps we should take:
(1) provide clear explanations on what the vaccine is, its benefits, and how it works;
(2) create trust by including African health workers as part of the effort; and
(3) provide protection from possible side effects. For example, studies show that providing money to participants up front so they can feel secure in their choice would encourage acceptance. With all of these combined methods and the continued efforts at educating African populations about this virus, we hope that soon Africans will no longer reject the covid-19 vaccine but instead demand it for themselves.