Introduction: COVID-19 is still a major global threat for which vaccination remains the ultimate solution. Uganda reported 40,751 cases and 335 deaths as of 9 April 2021 and started its vaccination program among priority groups like health workers, teachers, and those with chronic diseases in early March 2021. Unanimous uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine is required to subsequently avert its spread.
Objectives: We assessed COVID-19 vaccine acceptability, hesitancy, and associated factors among medical students in Uganda.
Methodology: We conducted an online descriptive cross-sectional survey among medical students across 10 medical schools in Uganda. A structured questionnaire via Google form was sent to eligible participants via WhatsApp. Each medical school had a coordinator who consistently shared the data tool in the WhatsApp groups. Chi-square or Fisher’s exact test, and logistic regression were used to assess the association between vaccine acceptability with demographics, COVID-19 risk perception, and vaccine hesitancy.
Results: We surveyed 600 medical students, 377 (62.8%) were male. COVID-19 vaccine acceptability was 37.3% and vaccine hesitancy 30.7%. Factors associated with vaccine acceptability were being male (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.9, 95% CI 1.3–2.9, p=0.001) and being single (aOR= 2.1, 95% CI 1.1–3.9,p=0.022). Very high (aOR= 3.5, 95% CI 1.7– 6.9, p<0.001) or moderate (aOR =2.2, 95% CI1.2–4.1, p=0.008) perceived risk of getting. COVID-19 in the future, receiving any vaccine in the past 5 years (aOR= 1.6, 95% CI 1.1–2.5, p=0.017), and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy (aOR 0.6, 95% CI 0.4–0.9, p=0.036).
Conclusions: This study revealed low levels of acceptance towards the COVID-19 vaccine among medical students, low self- perceived risks of COVID-19, and reliance on negative information on social media. There is need for more sensitization on the safety and importance of vaccination in the battle against COVID-19 among medical students in Uganda.
Keywords: COVID-19, Vaccine acceptance, hesitancy, Medical students