While tens of millions of people around the world have already received the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine, the first round of jabs has yet to commence in South Africa. Last week, however, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize presented the government’s roll-out strategy and confirmed that the country will be receiving 1,000,000 doses in January, followed by 500,000 doses in February, from the Serum Institute of India (SII).
What does South Africa have to say?
Despite being in the midst of COVID-19’s second wave, with the number of reported local cases and deaths ballooning daily, a staggering 52% of South Africans would not even take the vaccine if it were available to them.
This is according to the latest data from leading fintech company, CompariSure, who have been surveying South Africans from all walks of life on their thoughts around the latest COVID-19 developments.
“From our most recent survey, we saw that just over 50% of respondents answered “No” to a direct question on whether they were willing to get the vaccine when it became available,” says Matt Kloos, CFO of CompariSure.
Perhaps sentiment will shift as vaccine rollouts continue around the world, especially if certain inoculated countries are able to eradicate the pandemic, but for now South Africans remain very sceptical.
When asked why they were unwilling to get a vaccine, 34% of users cited “Side effects” as their main concern. Other commonly stated reasons for rejecting the jab included “Religion” (13%) and “Cost/price” (16%), with approximately 40% of respondents stating “Other”, with reasons like “fear of needles” and “government tracking” being supplied.
Pertinently, President Ramaphosa addressed these common concerns in his national statement last night, highlighting that many South Africans are routinely vaccinated, and vaccination is nothing to be feared. “In addition to securing sufficient vaccine shots, it is clear the government needs to continue educating South Africans on the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID-19,” adds Kloos.
What this resistance to getting vaccinated means for the government’s vaccination roll-out strategy and reaching heard immunity remains to be seen. While many countries the world over have pinned their hopes of getting out of the pandemic on vaccination, it appears that in South Africa it might not be that simple.
Looking on the brightside…
South Africa’s first vaccine doses are on their way earlier than expected, and as per the government’s roll-out strategy, the country’s dedicated healthcare workers will be prioritised, notes Kloos. “Our healthcare professionals, of all people, understand the value of these life-saving vaccinations. Getting vaccinated will ensure that these brave individuals, who continue to be on the frontline of the country’s fight against COVID-19, can continue to save lives.”