• Nineteen per cent of those hesitant cited concerns over the safety of the vaccine as their main reason for rejecting it
• Vaccine hesitancy is higher among females, those who identify as protestants and those with post-secondary education.
Only 42 per cent of Kenyans aged between 18 and 24 are ready to take the Covid-19 jab, research by Amref Health Africa shows.
The study sought to assess and establish the determinants of behaviour towards the Covid-19 vaccine among the youth in Kenya as an entry point to planning a countrywide vaccination programme.
It found that a majority are hesitant to get vaccinated.
Vaccine hesitancy is higher among females, those who identify as protestants and those with post-secondary education.
Those rejecting the vaccine pointed to social media as their main source of information.
They also cited a lack of adequate information and low trust in the Ministry of Health as well as disbelief in the effectiveness or necessity of mass vaccination.
"Young people, who also constitute a significant proportion of community health volunteers, are becoming key family and community influencers through the information accessed via social and other media,” Prof Joachim Osur, the Vice-Chancellor of Amref International University said.
The report was titled ‘Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: Vaccination Intentions and Attitudes of Community Health Volunteers in Kenya.’
“While the youth may not be among the vulnerable population, they are still highly susceptible to contracting the virus, so we must find ways to engage and empower them to allow them to make well-informed decisions. Their acceptance of the Covid-19 vaccine may build confidence in mass vaccination," Osur said.
Amref Health Africa conducted a trio of studies to assess the knowledge levels and attitudes of youth and community health volunteers towards the Covid-19 vaccine. It showed substantial gaps that are likely to impact Kenya’s pandemic response.
In the case of CHVs, a separate study aimed at exploring their Covid-19 vaccine knowledge and establishing the determinants of their attitudes towards Covid-19 vaccination was done.
The study showed that 81 per cent of CHVs would accept the vaccine and intend to engage with their communities regarding future Covid-19 vaccine rollout plans.
“CHVs are key in mobilising communities and driving vaccine acceptance. However, they are only effective when they have substantial knowledge of the vaccines and are themselves ready to accept vaccination," Amref Kenya country director Dr Meshack Ndirangu said.
He added, “The fact that only 68 per cent of CHVs consider Covid-19 precautions to be necessary after vaccination means that we still have to do the work of educating them because they are the strongest link between communities and the health system.”
Nineteen per cent of those hesitant cited concerns over the safety of the vaccine as their main reason for rejecting it while another 36 per cent and 10 per cent of this group said they rely on social media and community meetings respectively as their main sources of information.
Conversely, those intending to get vaccinated are more likely to get their information from radio and TV. They accounted for 67 per cent of respondents.
According to Amref, persistent vaccine hesitancy remains a global challenge and a key barrier to achieving herd immunity through mass vaccination, which is the most promising intervention to end the Covid-19 pandemic.
The three studies propose a range of measures to be taken by the government and other stakeholders in healthcare, including designing and implementing a robust communication strategy on the Covid-19 vaccine to provide accurate information to youth and CHVs.
The studies also recommend strengthening health system responses and engaging youth, CHVs, and religious leaders to reduce Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy by boosting public trust in the government.
CHVs should also be trained on Covid-19 prevention and vaccines and equipped with the tools they need to support community sensitisation.
Another recommendation is for the government to take into account contextual gender disparities when designing and implementing the vaccine rollout.
Edited by P.O