Implementing national COVID-19 vaccination programmes in sub-Saharan Africa- early lessons from Zimbabwe: a descriptive cross-sectional study

Grant Murewanhema, Trouble Victor Burukai, Brighton Chireka, Edward Kunonga

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Introduction: Zimbabwe was one of the first countries to run a national COVID-19 vaccination programme in Africa. Lessons learnt could inform the rollout of similar programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. To describe the trends of uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines in the first three months (February - May 2021) of the Zimbabwe vaccination programme and the lessons learnt.

Methods: a secondary descriptive analysis of routinely available COVID-19 vaccination data extracted from the daily situation reports published by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

Results: in the first three months of the programme, 1 020 078 doses were administered, with 675 678 being first doses and 344 400 were second doses. Using population estimates, at three months, 5.2% of the population had received at least one dose and 2.6% had received the full two doses. Uptake was initially slow, followed by a gradual, and subsequently an exponential increase.

Conclusion: by the end of May 2021, Zimbabwe had rolled out one of the largest COVID-19 vaccination programme in sub-Saharan Africa. The uptake followed a pattern and trend that is consistent with vaccine hesitancy reported in the literature, driven by a combination of confidence, complacency and convenience factors. The gradual increase in uptake followed a series of national and local community engagement programmes. The roll-out of similar programmes must recognise likely patterns of uptake across the population and ensure plans are in place to address vaccine hesitancy. The available data did not allow granular analysis to understand the demographics of people who participated in the programme, which is important for surveillance, targeted action, preventing inequalities and ensuring adequate and proportionate protection of residents prioritising the most vulnerable. Further analysis of the process, outcomes and impact of the programme will be helpful in informing the rollout of similar programmes across Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Article number180
Number of pages12
JournalPan African Medical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


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