South Africa's stop-start vaccination roll-out, coupled with miscommunication and fear fuelled by reports of blood clots and other side effects has had the insidious cost of increased vaccine hesitancy, reports BusinessLIVE.
The latest National Income Dynamics Study–Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (Nids-Cram), released this week, shows that in February and March this year, the vast majority of South Africans (71%) said they would take the vaccine if they could. Nic Spaull, an economist at Stellenbosch University and the co-principal investigator of the Nids-Cram study, says that people, however, are now more wary of the vaccine.
"Few genuinely understand that you are as likely to get struck by lightning (one chance in a million) as you are to get a blood clot from a vaccine. It’s not going to happen – but thousands of people who were on the fence may now opt against vaccination."
The three main reasons for hesitancy were: concern about side effects (31%); lack of belief in effectiveness (21%); or general lack of trust in vaccines (18%). To combat vaccine hesitancy, we need to know not only why people are hesitant, but also who they are, Spaull says.
"This new data shows that those most at risk of COVID-19 (the elderly and those with chronic conditions) are more willing to get the jab. By contrast, those least at risk – people aged between 18 and 25 – were less willing, with only 63% saying they would have a vaccination."
Spaull writes that one unexpected finding from the survey results was that a respondent’s home language was also a significant predictor of vaccine hesitancy, with 42% of Afrikaans home-language respondents being vaccine hesitant. This is higher than the national average of 29% and far higher than in people belonging to seven of the 11 language groups. "It is a key insight because vaccines are being rolled out provincially and the media that reaches them is predominantly segmented by language."
"This past weekend Gauteng Premier David Makhura revealed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspension did seem to be affecting vaccine registrations in his province. In the past three weeks, of the 1.3m Gauteng residents older than 60, only 235 000 (18%) had registered to get a vaccine. It shows there is no room for fuzzy messaging around the efficacy and safety of the jab, if we want a successful roll-out."