Coronavirus: Health experts explain why vaccination rates are still low in some countries

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  • Poorly vaccinated countries face several challenges including limited vaccine supplies and weak health care systems
  • Many rich countries had planned to donate doses, but the emergence of Delta and Omicron variants delayed those plans
Associated Press |
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Most African countries are behind with their Covid-19 vaccinations; other countries with low vaccination rates include Yemen, Syria, Haiti and Papua New Guinea. Photo: Reuters

Why are Covid-19 vaccination rates still low in some countries?

Limited supplies remain a problem, but experts say other challenges now include unpredictable deliveries, weak health care systems and vaccine hesitancy.

Most countries with low vaccination rates are in Africa. As of late February, 13 countries in Africa have fully vaccinated less than 5 per cent of their populations, according to Phionah Atuhebwe, an officer for the World Health Organization’s regional office for Africa.

Why are fully vaccinated people still getting hospitalised?

Other countries with extremely low vaccination rates include Yemen, Syria, Haiti and Papua New Guinea.

For most of last year, developing nations were plagued by a lack of supplies. Rich countries were hoarding doses and many countries did not have the facilities to make their own vaccines. COVAX – an initiative to distribute vaccines equally around the world – faltered in delivering shots.

Many rich countries had planned to donate doses once their own populations were vaccinated, but the emergence of the delta and omicron variants spurred booster campaigns that further delayed those plans. Vaccine makers have largely declined to share their formulas or technology, further restricting production.

Other setbacks to vaccinations have also emerged.

“The main problem among countries with low vaccination rates is poor infrastructure to distribute shots,” says Dina Borzekowski, director of the Global Health Initiative at the University of Maryland.

“What is absent are best practices to get vaccines to populations who typically live without safely managed sanitation systems or reliable electricity.”

Why are vaccinated people still getting Covid-19?

Donated vaccines are also sometimes delivered close to their expiration dates, giving health officials little time to distribute them, says Sinhye Ha of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Some countries also lack materials like syringes to inject the shots or ways to keep the vaccines at the right temperature.

Vaccine hesitancy fuelled by misinformation and a distrust of governments has also contributed to low vaccine uptake in some countries, says Atuhebwe.

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