Seek to Understand Factors Behind Low COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake in Africa: Catholic Agency

At health facilities in DR Congo, Malteser International has supported local structures to vaccinate 10,000 doses against the coronavirus to people most in need. Credit: Nyokabi Kahura/Malteser International

There is need to understand the factors and circumstances behind low COVID-19 vaccine uptake in Africa, the leadership of the Rome-based Catholic lay Religious Sovereign Order of Malta, Malteser International (MI), has said. 

In a Wednesday, October 27 report, the MI Head of the Africa Department, Roland Hansen, says in Africa,  “people's lack of trust in the vaccine”, lack of the jabs, and poor logistics are among factors behind the reported low uptake. 

Addressing these concerns, Mr. Hansen says, involves listening to the people.

“We have to talk to people. We need to understand the reasons that keep them from getting vaccinated, the rumors circulating and getting them out of the way. We can only do this if we also listen to them,” the MI official says. 

He adds, “We saw this during the last Ebola outbreak in the DR Congo, and it is just as important in the fight against Corona as it is for all coming epidemics.”


Mr. Hansen states that it is important to address the concerns raised by the people of God in the world’s second largest continent because, “if we do not improve the vaccination quota worldwide as quickly as possible, new mutations will form and ultimately reduce the effectiveness of the previous vaccines. Then we in Europe will have to start all over again and an end to the pandemic will be a long way off.”

The MI official further notes that while global leaders focused on the fair distribution of vaccines at the October 24 - 26 World Health Summit in Berlin, a lot more is required to achieve the worldwide vaccination quota.

“At the World Health Summit there has been a lot of talk in the last few days about a fair distribution of vaccines. This is of course the basic requirement for combating the pandemic. But that can't be all. We have to improve the infrastructures in the countries and win people's trust in the vaccines,” says MI’s Head of the Africa Department.

According to reports, only 15 out of 54 African countries have met the World Health Organization (WHO) global goal of fully vaccinating 10% of their populations by September 30.

According to the Immunization and Vaccines Development Program Coordinator for WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr Richard Mihigo, “opaque delivery plans are still the number one nuisance that hold Africa back.”

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Dr. Mihigo has also highlighted vaccine hesitancy as an issue of concern “here and there.”

The WHO official said the organization is working towards identifying bottlenecks in countries where limited technical capacity to deliver vaccines has hampered inoculation campaigns.

In June, Catholic Bishops in South Africa said some of the concerns about COVID-19 vaccines were the duration of producing them, associating the jab with the mark of the beast, and that the inoculations have various side effects. 

“COVID-19 has taken less than a year to produce, and the question is ‘is it really genuine and effective?’” the members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) posed in their June 4 statement. 

SACBC members said South Africans should not be worried about the duration of production as different “trusted” scientists in the country assured the people that research on COVID-19 was done faster with large numbers of people ensuring safety and efficacy measurements were not compromised.


The Catholic Bishops in the three-nation Conference also noted that associating the jabs with “the ‘mark of the beast’ is based on a wrong and fundamentalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation and ignores the historical and biblical context.”

“This theory is baseless. In fact, vaccines are not new. Vaccines have been a reality for all of us from birth, including vaccines against polio, measles and many others,” Catholic Bishops in Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa said in the June 4 statement. 

They also said that concerns about the vaccines’ side effects are common with all medications and would eventually go away, and urged the people of God to get vaccinated.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.