AFRICAN countries have embarked on a fight against misinformation in efforts to boost Covid-19 vaccination numbers, which remain low compared to other regions globally.
According to the World Health Organisation, information shared by a range of African countries indicates that mistrust and misinformation are driving down demand for life-saving jabs.
African governments are keen to send out factual messages to woo more people to take the vaccines, and ultimately better protect the continent’s population.
In Ghana, the government has set up a Misinformation and Rumour Management Taskforce, which works at the national and regional levels to address false claims.
Senegal on the other hand has rolled out toll-free call centres to provide the public with facts to uncertain members of the public.
Botswana has surveyed its population to understand overall risk perception and then taken to social media with its #ArmReady campaign to increase public demand.
Continentally, the WHO-hosted Africa Infodemic Response Alliance (AIRA) brings together African fact-checking organisations, big data, AI and innovation bodies and leading inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations to share facts around Covid-19 and vaccines.
‘Fighting misinformation that fuels vaccine hesitancy is by no means easy,’ says Dr. Gilson Paluku, an Immunisation Officer covering central African countries for WHO. ‘Low demand is contributing to low uptake.’
‘Misinformation is omnipresent, and when vaccine hesitancy affects uptake, countries face the logistical nightmare of having to quickly redistribute doses so none are wasted,’ he added.
Data from the WHO indicates that only 3 percent of the almost 8 billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa, and only around 8 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated, compared with more than 60 percent in many high-income countries.
The continent has so far reported more than 9.35 million Covid-19 infections with 226,960 fatalities.