Yemen has experienced three waves of COVID-19 infections. So far, there is no information on the Omicron variant in the country and whether this will spark a fourth wave. Official case numbers are low, with only 10,000 across the period of the pandemic (WHO accessed 02/01/2022), but the reality of the COVID-19 situation in Yemen remains unknown because of the country’s limited capacity to test and monitor the number of cases. Another reason is that in areas under the control of the de-facto authority (DFA) in the north of Yemen (also known as the Houthis), authorities deny the presence of COVID-19, and almost no testing for the virus is taking place.
Yemen’s northern governorates, where the Houthis are in control, are home to over 80% of the population – around 30 million people.
Vaccine rollout in Yemen is limited to only the southern governorates, where as at 2 December 2021, 4,774,000 vaccine doses have been allocated under the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative. Only 2.6% of Yemenis have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose (WHO dashboard accessed 3/1/2022; Reuters COVID-19 Tracker accessed 06/01/2021).
WHO defines vaccine hesitancy as the delay in the acceptance or the refusal of vaccines despite their availability. The term covers the refusal to get vaccinated, delaying vaccination, accepting vaccines but remaining uncertain about their use, or using certain vaccines but not others. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO named vaccine hesitancy as one of the ten major threats to global health (WHO 2016 and 31/12/2019). Research has found it to be a complex and dynamic social process that is context-specific and can change over time (TFO 08/03/2021).27