Why youth are avoiding Covid-19 jab

HEALTH & SCIENCE |

A resident of Kariobaki gets her Covid-19 vaccination jab during the mass vaccination exercise on August 8, 2021. [David Gichuru,Standard]

More than half of youth in Kenya are waiting to see how the Covid-19 vaccine affects those who have already received it before they can take the jab, according to a new report.

The study by Amref Health Africa, has attributed the wait-and-see attitude among 52 per cent of the youth to fears of the likely effects the jab may have on their health.

More than half of female youth respondents, or 60.85 per cent, said they are still waiting while 47.38 of males said they would be willing to take the vaccine.

The study, titled The Determinants of COVID-19 Vaccine Behaviour Intentions Among The Youth In Kenya: A Vaccine Pre-Introduction Study, noted many young people are hesitant to take the vaccine despite the fact that they are major influencers, though a good number understand the importance of vaccination.

“Of those who are not ready to be vaccinated, six per cent are completely unwilling to receive the vaccine,” states the study.

More than half of those sampled, (65 per cent), said they rejected the Covid-19 vaccine due to inadequate information provided and lack of access to enough information on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine.

A segment of seven per cent said it rejected the vaccine because it either conflicts with their cultures or religion.

The scientists established that the youth are afraid of long-term effects of the vaccine on their health and adverse reactions such as fever, headaches, migraines, joint pains and absence of menses.

Other issues of concern were possibility of blood clots and infertility, especially in men. The possible change of menstrual cycle among women, which would include missing monthly periods also came out as a major issue of concern during the study.

“If this thing can affect me, then how will my tomorrow be? Will I get to a place where I can only have one child? Will I get to a place where I cannot be able to function like I would have if I had not taken the vaccine?” one of the youth told Amref scientists.

No adverse effects have been reported among recipients of the jab since the vaccination programme was launched in Kenya in March to warrant investigations, according to the Ministry of Health.

Common side effects, however, include pain at injection area, headache, tiredness and muscle aches.

The research was conducted, through an online platform, in all the 47 counties among youth aged between 18 and 35 to assess what determined the behaviour of youth towards the vaccine.

A total of 665 youth participated in the study.

45.35 per cent were from urban counties while 26.36 per cent and 28.29 per cent were from peri-urban and rural counties respectively.

The youth were found to have relied mainly on information from social media (40 percent) to make the decision on whether or not they would take the jab.

TV and radio also provided young people with information on Covid-19, at 31.43 per cent and 23.91 per cent respectively. Information received by word of mouth stood at a paltry 2.56 per cent.

Rural youth, with primary level of education, were found to rely on radio for information on Covid-19. Most of those in colleges and universities relied on social media.

Whereas the Ministry of Health is regarded as the main source of information on the pandemic, only 1.35 per cent of respondents relied on it. Some youth rejected the vaccine because they do not have confidence in government’s response efforts to the pandemic.

“Most young people have access to social media and fast-flowing information compared to older people, thus they  may access misinformation and spread it to older people which may lead to vaccine hesitancy,” the study shows.

Meanwhile, a separate study carried out in Mombasa, Trans-Nzoia, Kajiado, and Nairobi counties established that most Community Health Volunteers (81 per cent) would accept the vaccine. 

Less than half of the health volunteers, or 36 per cent, and another 10 per cent cited social media and community meetings respectively, as their main sources of information. 

mkahenda@standardmedia.co.ke

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