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CDC shifts focus to boost Covid-19 vaccine uptake among the youth

Health & Science
 A healthcare worker vaccinates a member of the public during the Launch of Covid-19 Mass Vaccination Drive held in Dagoretti on February 3, 2022. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The Africa CDC is planning a mass coronavirus vaccination campaign in Africa to boost uptake.

Ahmed Ogwell, the Africa CDC Deputy Director, said the larger percentage of the population in the continent comprises the youth, at whom the campaign is mainly targeted as part of developing herd immunity.

Dr Ogwell said educating young people on the need for the vaccine will bring more people on board.”  

According to a study by Amref Health Africa, low Covid-19 uptake among youth emanated from fear of associated side-effects.

Ogwell encouraged African countries to adopt antigen testing, as it is cheaper, effective and used for mass testing. Experts encourage self-testing in addition to the PCR tests.

The online research dubbed “Determinants of Covid-19 Vaccine Behaviour Intentions among the Youth in Kenya”, noted that more than 50 per cent of youth waited for side-effects of jabs on others before deciding whether to get vaccinated. Six per cent were unwilling to be vaccinated.

The study done in 47 counties on respondents aged between 18 and 35 revealed that most youth feared, among others, effect on fertility and sexual performance.

Geoffrey Kulabusia, an immunologist, said: “Experiencing side effects after vaccination means the vaccine is working and your immune system is responding as it should.”

Matilu Mwau, an infectious disease specialist, said self-testing prevents spread of the virus because “if an individual tests negative, he may be able to interact with people, and if tested and found positive, and wants to travel, you avoid inconveniences of getting into the system.”  

Self-testing, Prof Mwau said, also prevents stigma and discrimination. 

Meanwhile, health experts have maintained there was need to accelerate vaccination as a key health safety measure, as Kenya reported a drop in Covid-19 infections and deaths.

Amref Health Africa CEO Githinji Gitahi said it was time to reduce mask mandates and accelerate vaccine access in Africa. 

“The future of coronavirus surges impact communities will depend on many factors, such as vaccination rates, immunity, hospital capacity, and equitable availability of Covid-19 tools like vaccines and treatments — an area rapidly changing for the better,” said Dr Gitahi.

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