Analysis of data reported from 25 countries finds that since March 2021, 1.3 million health workers were fully vaccinated, with just six countries reaching more than 90%, while nine countries have fully vaccinated less than 40%.
percent of health workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated against
COVID-19. This is according to a preliminary analysis by World Health
Analysis of data reported from 25 countries finds that since March 2021, 1.3
million health workers were fully vaccinated, with just six countries reaching
more than 90%, while nine countries have fully vaccinated less than 40%.
In sharp contrast, a recent WHO global study of 22 mostly high-income
countries reported that above 80% of their health and care workers are fully
“The majority of Africa’s health workers are still missing out on vaccines and
remain dangerously exposed to severe COVID-19 infection. Unless our doctors,
nurses and other frontline workers get full protection we risk a blowback in
the efforts to curb this disease", said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO
Regional Director for Africa during the weekly press briefing where she urged
countries to ensure health facilities are safe working environments.
It is important to have high vaccine coverage among health workers not only for
their protection but also for their patients and to ensure health care systems
keep operating during a time of extreme need.
Africa’s shortage of health workers is acute and profound, with only one
country in the region having the required health workers (10.9 per 1000
population) to deliver essential health services. Sixteen countries in the
region have less than one health worker per 1000 population.
Any loss of these essential workers to COVID-19 due to illness or death the WHO
warns heavily impacts on service provision capacity. Based on data reported to
WHO by countries in the African Region, since March 2020, there have been more
than 150 400 COVID-19 infections in health workers, accounting for 2.5% of all
confirmed cases and 2.6% of the total health workforce in the region.
Five countries account for about 70% of all the COVID-19 infections
reported in health workers including Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and
However, after almost four months of a sustained decline, COVID-19 cases in the
general population in Africa have plateaued.
first time since the third wave peak in August, cases in Southern Africa have
increased, jumping 48% in the week ending on 21 November compared with the
With a new surge in cases looming over Africa following the end-of-year festive
season, WHO urges countries to speed up the rollout of vaccines to health care
The risk of health worker infection rises whenever cases surge. This is a
pattern that has been observed during the previous three waves of the
With a fourth wave likely to hit after the end-of-year travel season, experts
worry health workers will again face risks amid low vaccination coverage.
To date, more than 227 million vaccine doses have been administered in Africa.
In 39 countries that provided data, 3.9 million doses have been given to health
workers. Generally, vaccine shipments have been on the rise over the past three
Africa has received 330 million doses from the COVAX Facility, the African
Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and bilateral agreements since February 2021. Of
these 83% have been delivered since August alone.
As vaccine supply picks up, addressing uptake bottlenecks and
accelerating rollout becomes more critical. All countries in Africa have
prioritized health workers in their vaccination plans.
The low coverage is likely due to the availability of vaccination services,
especially in rural areas, as well as vaccine hesitancy, the organization
points out as recent studies found that only around 40% of health workers
intended to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Ghana and less than 50% in Ethiopia.
Concerns over vaccine safety and the adverse side effects of the vaccines
have been identified as the main reasons for their hesitancy. Health workers
are key sources of information for the general population and their attitudes
can influence vaccine uptake.
“The COVID-19 vaccine stands among humanity’s extraordinary scientific feats.
In Africa, we’re gradually overcoming supply constraints. Now is not the time
to stumble over vaccine mistrust,” said Dr Moeti.