A huge global effort to increase the number of vaccines reaching low-income countries is necessary, but not sufficient. Working in Cameroon’s vaccine roll-out against COVID-19, we’ve seen a level of hesitancy that we fear could mean that many doses will expire before people can benefit from them. Urgent investment is needed to counter misinformation in community-specific ways. Doses can then reach the most at-risk populations as soon as they arrive.
Cameroon, a nation of 25 million, has enough vaccine for 72% of those at high risk (812,300 people). By mid-June, just 2.3% of them had been fully vaccinated. Only around one in five health workers had accepted shots. Some people even refused polio vaccines, fearing that they were COVID-19 vaccines. At this rate, many of the allocated doses could go to waste.
Introducing a vaccine requires significant preparation to ensure optimal uptake (see, for example, go.nature.com/3wmd3vn). However, one month after the launch of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Cameroon, the communication strategy was neither validated nor implemented. Fears about extremely rare adverse events are widespread; fear of the pandemic is not.
Low-income countries must act now to boost confidence in vaccines.
Nature 595, 30 (2021)
The authors declare no competing interests.