Delegates to the southern Africa multi-stakeholder regional dialogue have expressed worry over Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy among citizens in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region, saying the trend will likely derail economic recovery in the region.
The experts made the call on Tuesday in Johannesburg, South Africa at the end of a multi-stakeholder regional dialogue.
There has been a low uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine in Sadc members States, including Malawi with latest statistics showing that 933 856 have received at least one dose while 540 186 have been fully vaccinated, representing 4.9 and 2.8 percent, respectively.
Caption: Gondo: We looked at various issues affecting young people.
In Mozambique, 6.5 percent of the targeted population has been vaccinated while in Tanzania only 1.5 percent of the population has been vaccinated. Zambia is at 1.7 percent while South Africa is at 20 percent. However, Seychelles is leading Africa with 81 percent.
Southern Africa Trust (SAT) programme coordinator on economic policy development, Shamiso Chigorimbo, said the problem of vaccine hesitancy requires urgent attention, calling for more awareness in all sectors to ensure that more people get vaccinated and that the region reaches herd immunity.
She said: “Among the issues that came out is vaccine hesitancy, we want to work together and see what policies can be implemented to address this challenge if we are to defeat the virus and get back to normal.”
Southern Africa Youth Forum regional coordinator Misheck Gondo described the conference as a co-creation of ideas which allowed stakeholders to enhanced strategies on how best they can rectify some of the common challenges facing the region.
He said: “We looked at various issues affecting young people in the region and we clustered them within the economic, technological, social and political groups. “
Malawi targets to vaccinate 60 percent of the population or 11 million to reach herd immunity.
In September this year, the country failed to vaccinate 1.1 million to reach the 10 percent target since the vaccination campaign began in March.
Commenting recently on the vaccine uptake, Physicians Assistants Union of Malawi president Solomon Chomba said Covid-19 vaccines have, so far, proved effective and are providing a clear roadmap for economic recovery.
But he warned that if Malawians continue to shun the jab, the country risks being seriously hit by another wave by December this year.
About 30 representatives from various sectors and organisations from Sadc attended the two-day conference, which was held under the theme, Are we Building Back Better Towards Economic Recovery?
The participants, among other issues, discussed common challenges facing the region such cross-border challenges, food insecurity and lack of social protection to the vulnerable people