Global debates about vaccines in the era of Covid-19 currently focus on questions of supply, with attention to unjust global distribution. At the same time, vaccine demand and uptake are seen to be threatened by hesitancy, often attributed to a globalised anti-vaxx movement and misinformation and conspiracy, now reaching African populations. Underplayed are socio-political contexts of vaccines and how they are interpreted within African settings. We explore these through a ‘vaccine anxieties’ framework, considering both desires for and worries about vaccines, as shaped by bodily, societal and wider political understandings and experiences in local and national settings in Uganda and Sierra Leone. In considering the socially-embedded reasons why people want or do not want Covid-19 vaccines, and how this intersects with supply, access and distribution in rapidly-unfolding epidemic situations, we bring new, expanded insights into debates about vaccine confidence and vaccine preparedness.