Confidence in routine immunizations in eight sub-Saharan African countries has dropped during the past 2 years, along with the largest decline in vaccine uptake in the region in more than 30 years, according to new data published in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics.
The study based vaccine confidence on 17,187 individual interviews conducted from 2020 to 2022 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ivory Coast, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda. In addition to being queried on COVID-19 vaccines, participants were asked seven questions pertaining to vaccine confidence, including whether they agree with statements such as, "Vaccines are important for all ages," "Vaccines are important for children," and "Vaccines are safe."
The biggest declines in the belief "Vaccines are important for children" from 2020 to 2022 occurred in the DRC (20% decline), followed by Uganda (14%) and Nigeria (10.5%). Trust in the safety of COVID-19 vaccine did not fall during the study period, but in seven of the eight countries study participants said COVID-19 vaccines were less important in 2022 than in 2020.
Previously, declines in immunizations in Africa during the pandemic have been thought to be due to health service disruption. The interviews now also show that attitudes toward vaccines wavered.
"Our study paints a worrying picture of declining vaccine confidence trends across many sub-national regions in sub-Saharan Africa, notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where confidence losses are particularly large," said lead author Alex De Figueiredo, PhD, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in a press release from Taylor & Francis Group, which publishes the journal.
Our study paints a worrying picture of declining vaccine confidence trends.
The authors said dropping vaccine uptake in sub-regions of African countries could lead to drops in herd immunity to a number of diseases.