COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among non-refugees and refugees in Kenya

Ryan T. Rego, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Anthony K. Ngugi, Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya
Antonia Johanna Sophie Delius, World Bank Group, Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America
Stanley Luchters, Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya
Joseph C. Kolars, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Furqan B. Irfan, Michigan State University, Lansing, Michigan
Eileen Weinheimer-Haus, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Amina Abubakar, Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya
Reena Shah, Aga Khan University


Factors associated with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy (which we define as refusal to be vaccinated when asked, resulting in delayed or non- vaccination) are poorly studied in sub-Saharan Africa and among refugees, particularly in Kenya. Using survey data from wave five (March to June 2021) of the Kenya Rapid Response Phone Survey (RRPS), a household survey representative of the population of Kenya, we estimated the self-reported rates and factors associated with vaccine hesitancy among non-refugees and refugees in Kenya. Non-refugee households were recruited through sampling of the 2015/16 Kenya Household Budget Survey and random digit dialing. Refugee households were recruited through random sampling of registered refugees. Binary response questions on misinformation and information were transformed into a scale. We performed a weighted (to be representative of the overall population of Kenya) multivariable logistic regression including interactions for refugee status, with the main outcome being if the respondent self-reported that they would not take the COVID-19 vaccine if available at no cost. We calculated the marginal effects of the various factors in the model. The weighted univariate analysis estimated that 18.0% of non-refugees and 7.0% of refugees surveyed in Kenya would not take the COVID-19 vaccine if offered at no cost. Adjusted, refugee status was associated with a -13.1[95%CI:-17.5,-8.7] percentage point difference (ppd) in vaccine hesitancy. For the both refugees and non-refugees, having education beyond the primary level, having symptoms of COVID-19, avoiding handshakes, and washing hands more often were also associated with a reduction in vaccine hesitancy. Also for both, having used the internet in the past three months was associated with a 8.1[1.4,14.7] ppd increase in vaccine hesitancy; and disagreeing that the government could be trusted in responding to COVID-19 was associated with a 25.9[14.2,37.5]ppd increase in vaccine hesitancy. There were significant interactions between refugee status and some variables (geography, food security, trust in the Kenyan government’s response to COVID-19, knowing somebody with COVID-19, internet use, and TV ownership). These relationships between refugee status and certain variables suggest that programming between refugees and non-refugees be differentiated and specific to the contextual needs of each group.