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Women Left Behind: Gender Gap Emerges in Africa's Vaccines

Αssociated Press

Maasai men queuing to receive the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine look over as a woman, who is not, Maasai receives a jab at a clinic in Kimana, southern Kenya Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

SARE GIBEL, Gambia — Health officials are confronting vaccine reluctance among African women, especially those of childbearing age.

Many worry pregnancies will be threatened, and in Africa, the success of a woman’s marriage often depends on how many children she bears. Other women fear the vaccine more than COVID-19; as breadwinners, they can’t miss a day working if side effects hit.

Their fears are hardly exceptional, with rumors proliferating across Africa. Fewer than 4% of of Africans are immunized. Although gender data are lacking globally, experts see a growing number of women in Africa’s poorest countries consistently missing vaccines.

Officials who already bemoan the inequity of vaccine distribution between rich and poor nations now fear African women are the world’s least vaccinated population.

Despite rampant concerns about pregnancy and fertility, there is no evidence that vaccines affect a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. The CDC, World Health Organization, and other agencies recommend pregnant women get vaccinated because they’re at higher risk of severe disease and death.