The head of the African health agency has warned that the UK’s policy of not accepting Covid-19 vaccine certificates from the continent could increase vaccine hesitation.
John Nkegasong said the UK’s position was confusing and had far-reaching implications for vaccination campaigns.
He warned that some people would wonder why they should get a shot if it was not accepted internationally.
Many Africans are furious and have called this policy discriminatory.
There was also an outcry in India, which produces most of the AstraZeneca vaccines distributed in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“We don’t understand why the UK has taken this position,” said Nkegasong, head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
He said during a press briefing that it was “a message that creates confusion among our population … creating more reluctance, reluctance for people to receive vaccines.”
He also asked why the UK was sending vaccines to Africa but would not recognize those who received them as vaccinated.
“This message is not really about solidarity and cooperation which we all believe to be the cornerstone and the ingredients to enable us to come out of this pandemic together,” he said.
Richard Mihigo, from the Africa region of the World Health Organization, said countries should now find a way to set up a mutual system that would recognize vaccine certificates from different countries.
Last week, the British government removed several countries from its so-called ‘red list’, from which travelers would have to quarantine if they visited England.
However, he said those who had been vaccinated in most countries outside the UK, EU and US should still be quarantined as the UK would not accept certificates. The rest of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – set their own health policies.
Initially, the UK refused to recognize AstraZeneca vaccines produced in India, even though they are exactly the same as those made in Europe. On Wednesday, he said the vaccines were approved but still does not accept certificates from most countries.
The British high commission in Kenya said it was working with the government there on a system to recognize each other’s vaccination certificates.
Less than 4% of Africans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, compared to around 54% in the United States and 65% in the United Kingdom.
A vaccine shortage is a problem in most African countries, but in some, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa, reluctance to vaccinate is a major problem and the government is trying to persuade more people to to get vaccinated.