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Vaccine hesitancy declines slightly

A University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) COVID-19 Democracy Survey has found that vaccine hesitancy declined slightly from 28% in July 2021 to 25% in November 2021.

The online survey, which was a partnership between UJ and the HSRC, was conducted using the data-free Moya Messenger app, which has six million subscribers and 800 000 users per day.

Presenting the findings from the survey, Yamkela Majikijela, PhD research trainee at the HSRC, said the survey focused on the latest data research, titled “Round 4" (undertaken between 25 June and 20 July 2021) and “Round 5” (undertaken between 22 October and 17 November 2021).

Majikijela was speaking during a webinar on COVID-19 Vaccine hesitancy, led by Deputy Minister in Presidency, Pinky Kekana, with the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, as one of the panellists.

She said by mid-2021, 10% of prople were vaccinated and 61% were favourable (total = 71% accepting), with hesitancy at 28%.

“In Oct/Nov 2021 in Round 5, 36% were vaccinated and 38% favourable (total = 74% accepting), with 25% hesitant.

“Results show that the 'accepting' are increasingly getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but a large share of this group remain unvaccinated,” she said.

Majikijela said the share that is hesitant declined only marginally during 2021.

Looking at vaccine acceptance and hesitancy by demographics, the survey showed that the 18 - 34 age group was more hesitant compared to other age groups.

In terms of gender, females were more hesitant compared to males. Meanwhile on population group, the levels of hesitancy within white people remain higher than among black African or Indian and Asian adults.

Self-reported explanations for vaccine hesitancy include the following:

• Explanations that are concerned with the general effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, excluding side effects.

• Explanations concerned with side-effects.

• Lack of trust in the vaccine or with government or other institutions.

• Religious objection explanations that provide a religious reason for being unwilling to vaccinate.

• Explanations that doubt the existence of COVID-19 or attribute the virus and/or vaccine to powerful groups with vested interests.

• Express the belief that the individual is not at risk of COVID-19.

• A preference for alternative treatments for COVID-19, including other drugs and/or traditional medicines, such as umhlonyane.

• Social media stories or hearing rumours that have made them hesitant.

Speaking at Thursday’s the webinar, Kekana said vaccine hesitancy prevents the country from living beyond the pandemic and focusing on the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) aimed at rebuilding the country.

She said that vaccine hesitancy among the world is neither new nor unique to COVID-19 vaccines.

Kekana said the country is nearing the halfway mark for adult vaccination, with almost half of South African adults having at least one COVID-19 vaccine, which is nowhere near the 70% of the population being fully vaccinated.

The Minister said the survey tested thousands of citizens and some of the major reasons from the study show that technical language and medical jargon cause people to ignore information; but on the other hand, people also do not trust government’s communication.

Addressing issues raised in the survey

Kekana said government will address some of these issues that have arisen in the survey.

“In our goal and commitment to leave no one behind and ensure that we build back better, it is incumbent upon us to drive a vaccine confidence strategy.

“We know that some things we cannot fix overnight, one of them being the trust in government due to the extensive levels of corruption. I can only say and show it in my actions that not all of us are involved in anti-nation building and corruption, [and] give you reason to be suspicious. Some of us are focused on the well-being of our people,” Kekana said.

Dhlomo said the health consciousness factor and health seeking behaviour in a population are important.

He said the country must allow themselves to be advised by scientists when it comes to issues of health.

He said the ‘Ke Ready’ campaign was done by young healthcare professionals, who wanted to reach out to the young population and get them to understand how vaccines work and get to vaccinate.

“Let us continually service our bodies, including trusting advice when asked to come in for vaccination. Vaccine is the only defence mechanism to the COVID-19 virus, which is the reason we ask you to make a commitment to vaccinate,” he said.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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