Expert Reaction to Challenges of Vaccines Roll-Out in Africa

Dr Kwame Asiedu Sarpong ,Pharmacist,member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, Institute of Pharmacy Management International, and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana,said:

“In the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, there is need for proper planning to show COVAX that a particular African country have the capacity to the vaccine’s integrity. Vaccines integrity means having storage facilities so that the vaccine can be stored at the right temperature. These vaccines are multi-dose, so Africa must have plans in place that not a single dose will go to waste. If you open a dose, you must have ten people ready for the vaccination,”

“Initially, a country like Nigeria didn’t need all these requirements because they had had challenges previously with the immunization. The situation is same as what Ghana had making it to be in prime position to become the first country in Africa followed by Ivory Coast to receive and roll-out the vaccination.  Currently other countries are falling into line because they have seen what the requirements are and how to comply,”

“COVAX is ensuring that Africa gets the vaccines. African countries are also ensuring that they will buy vaccines through bilateral agreement. The biggest problem now is not the vaccine but acceptance of the vaccine by Africans,”

“The next big thing that we are looking at is the acceptance of the vaccine. Yes, we’ve got vaccines but if the people you have to vaccinate to boost immunity are not accepting the vaccine, you still have a problem. So, if you look at the vaccines that are available, none of them is licensed for below the age of 16 years. This means that you cannot vaccinate people below 16 years, and you need to get a total number of your population to achieve immunity, from your adult population of 16 and above”

“In Ghana, we did a few surveys at the Center for Democratic Development. We found out that only 41% of adults were saying that they would take the vaccine immediately. To be able to address this, you need to understand how these people got their information…and you realize that 64% got their information from social media,”

“What is causing this problem? The question we ask is what would be informing your acceptance to the vaccine? About 92% of respondents said science and evidence but here is the thing:  A lot of science and evidence has been put out but still the people are not accepting it. This means that there is a big knowledge gap between the information that has been put out and the understanding of the information,”

“That is where journalists or media come in to be able to breakdown this information so that people, especially in Africa can understand it in their local dialects. This basically identifies Africa challenges and what the challenge really means,”

“The conversation should be in the language that people understand. There is a lot of work to be done to get Africa vaccinated and that work cannot be done by Scientists. Reason being even though they got the science, they can’t speak the language and communicate in the manner that the citizens understand. So, communication is a major breakdown and that is where the media should come in,”

“Again looking at the vaccines that are available, none of them is licensed for people below the age of 16 years. This means that you cannot vaccinate people below 16 years, and you need to get a total number of your population to achieve immunity from your adult population of 16 years and above,”

“This is the challenge that Africa faces and even in the light of COVAX helping us get vaccines, acceptance for me is the biggest priority that Africa should seek to address. The acceptance of these vaccines, so that we all have immunity,”

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