In early 2021, Media Hack Collective, an Africa Data Hub partner, began compiling a dataset of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines bought by countries or delivered to countries via Covax as well as the number of vaccines those countries administered. At the time there was no publicly available dataset containing all this information that was updated daily. We used this dataset to create a COVID-19 vaccine tracker for Africa.
Collecting this data was a labour-intensive, mostly manual process, that involved gathering data from many different sources. For an in-depth understanding of how we collected the data, see here.
All good things come to an end
On 30 June 2022 we stopped the daily task of updating the dataset for a few reasons. Vaccine administration across the continent had slowed down as the severity of the coronavirus pandemic eased. Demand for vaccines waned. South Africa, for example, had to destroy vaccine doses that it was unable to use before their expiry dates. And after two years of extensive reporting on the pandemic, media outlets were experiencing COVID-19 fatigue. Several countries stopped posting vaccination updates every day and many stopped reporting data in a consistent manner, making it increasingly difficult to track vaccines administered and received. So we decided to stop doing the daily updates and focus our efforts on other post-pandemic data.
Several countries stopped posting vaccination updates every day and many stopped reporting data in a consistent manner, making it increasingly difficult to track vaccines administered and received.
The importance of making data accessible to the public
The impact of data journalism during the pandemic cannot be underestimated. Many people relied on media sources for reliable information with which they could make basic life decisions: How dangerous is it to go to the grocery store? Should I take my family on holiday this year? Is it safe to go back to the office? But in many African countries, even academics, researchers and government decision-makers did not have easy access to data. And it was not just COVID-19 data, although the pandemic had brought the dearth of quality data to the forefront.
Many people relied on media sources for reliable information
Reliable data resources are valuable for building trust and reputation
What we learned while collecting COVID-19 data for Africa over the two years of the pandemic can be applied to data on many other topics. Collecting all this data, making it machine-readable and verifying it was a labour-intensive, time consuming and expensive process. But lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic show that for media companies, it can be a valuable resource for stories that can build trust among their audience and help provide resources to counter the disinformation and misinformation that proliferates on social media.
This is an edited and updated version of an article originally published on Inside Media Hack.
For more insights and news about how to use data in your journalism, sign up to the Africa Data Hub newsletter here!