Only 27% of health workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving the bulk of the workforce on the frontlines vulnerable for the pandemic, a new preliminary analysis shows.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%, says the World Health Organization or WHO’s analysis released on Thursday.
Nine other countries have fully vaccinated less than 40% of their health workers, says the analysis.
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 vaccinated.
Experts see having high vaccine coverage among health workers as key not only for their own protection but also for their patients and to ensure health care systems keep operating during a time of extreme need.
“The majority of Africa’s health workers are still missing out on vaccines and remain dangerously exposed to severe Covid-19 infection,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“Unless our doctors, nurses and other frontline workers get full protection we risk a blow back in the efforts to curb this disease. We must ensure our health facilities are safe working environments,” she added.
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 therefore heavily impacts on service provision capacity, according to WHO.
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 percent of the total health workforce in the region.
Five countries – Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe – account for about 70 percent of all the Covid-19 infections reported in health workers.