Associations between COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and the experience of violence among women and girls living with and at risk of HIV in Nigeria
Aim: Women and girls living with and at high risk of HIV (WGL&RHIV) had an increased risk for gender-based violence (GBV) during COVID-19. The study aimed to assess the associations between vaccine hesitancy and GBV, HIV status and psychological distress among these vulnerable women and girls in Nigeria.
Methods: This cross-sectional study collected data from WGL&RHIV in 10 states in Nigeria between June and October 2021. The dependent variable was vaccine hesitancy. The independent variables were the experience of physical, sexual, economic and emotional GBV, HIV status and psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted a multivariable logistics regression analysis to test the associations between vaccine hesitancy and the independent variables and covariates.
Results: Among the 3 431 participants, 1 015 (22.8%) were not willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Not knowing or willing to disclose HIV status (aOR 1.40) and having mild (aOR 1.36) and moderate (aOR 1.38) symptoms of anxiety and depression were significantly associated with higher odds of vaccine hesitancy. Being a survivor of intimate partner physical violence (aOR 5.76), non-intimate partner sexual violence (aOR 3.41), as well as emotional abuse (aOR 1.55) were significantly associated with respectively more than five, three and one and half times higher odds of vaccine hesitancy. One positive outcome is that HIV-positive women and girls appeared to be more likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine when available.
Conclusions: Sexual and gender-based violence, low socio-economic status, psychological distress and an unknown HIV status are essential determinants of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among vulnerable women and girls in Nigeria. National authorities and civil society organisations need to better integrate COVID-19 mitigation activities with HIV and gender-based violence interventions through a more feminist approach that promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in all their diversity for better access to health services.