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Why youth are avoiding Covid-19 vaccine

Health & Science

Nurse Yunuke Andre draws Covid-19 vaccine at Migori County Referral Hospital. April 19, 2021. [Caleb Kingwara, 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 young people 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 waiting to see how those who have been injected react before making the decision of whether or not they will take the vaccine.

On the other hand, 47.38 of males told researchers in the study whose findings were released last week that 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.

But the study also points out that a good number of youths understand the importance of the vaccine.

“Of those who are not ready to be vaccinated, 52 per cent say they are waiting to see the effects of the vaccine on those who have received it while 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 that has been provided so far.


Youth are afraid of the long-term effects of the vaccine on their health. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

They also said they do not have access to enough information on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine.

There was another segment of the young people (seven per cent) that 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, for example, losing some of the functions of their bodies.

They also fear adverse reactions such as fever, headaches, migraines, joint pains and absence of menses.

Other issues of concern were the 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.

“... you're thinking at my age, 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.


Covid-19 vaccination at the Standard Group. June 28, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

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

Those who were prioritised in the vaccination drive were healthcare workers, security officers, teachers and those aged 58 years and above.

The research was conducted, through an online platform, in all the 47 counties among youth aged between 18 and 35.

The study was commissioned to assess what determined the behaviour of youth towards the vaccine.

A total of 665 youth participated in the study with more than half of respondents, (60.30 per cent), being males.

Of those who took part, 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.


Astra-zeneca vaccine. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

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

Others rejected the vaccine because they do not have confidence in the government's response efforts to the pandemic.

In the study, scientists noted that the common source of information about Covid-19 and vaccines among youth was social media, which accounted for 40.30 per cent of the information consumed about the pandemic.

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 majorly 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.

“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.


A doctor shows vials of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine in his general practice facility, in Vienna, Austria May 13, 2021. [Reuters]

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. 

The study that was meant to explore their knowledge on Covid-19 vaccine, under the title COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: Vaccination Intentions and Attitudes of Community Health Volunteers in Kenya, the rest of the members of the group said they were hesitant to take the jab over safety concerns.

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. 

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