As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, in remote villages in many parts of Africa, vaccine hesitancy still remains.
Joseph Leshinga, a Maasai tribesperson living in a remote part of Kenya, doesn’t trust outsiders coming to his village trying to administer vaccines on him or his people.
Medical practitioners in Kenya are required to formally ask those getting vaccinated who their next of kin is, a simple question which has been enough to put Leshinga off taking the vaccine.
“To me this means this vaccine cannot give you a long life and they know it. That is why they are asking us for our next of kin because this vaccine is going to reduce your years of life,” he argues.
Leshinga who commands the respect of many of his tribespeople, who have also refused to take a COVID-19 vaccine despite it being offered free of charge by Kenya’s Ministry of Health from supplies donated by the UK government.
In Africa, less than 2% of the population on the continent of 1.3 billion people is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Vaccine shortages continue to plague many African countries and hospitals in Kenya are seeing more deaths due to COVID-19, but vaccine hesitancy remains a major challenge facing many African countries.
Stephen Letipei, a clinical officer at one of the remote health centres that caters to members of the Maasai community, says hesitancy comes from Kenya’s colonial past.
“They believe that this is an indirect way of colonizing us again by maybe controlling birth of Kenyans,” he said.
More than 7.3 million cases, including more than 186,000 deaths, have been confirmed across the continent, and health systems are straining to provide medical oxygen and other care.
If Africa continues to proceed at such a slow pace with its vaccination programme, it could have the effect of prolonging the pandemic internationally, especially in remote areas in Kenya’s Masaai land where foreign tourists and Masaai interact.