The fear that the COVID-19 vaccine will be ineffective or cause severe side effects are the main reasons why some South Africans are hesitant to get vaccinated.

The Centre for Social Change at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in collaboration with the Developmental, Ethical and Capable State research division of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) released their research findings on vaccine hesitancy on Wednesday.

According to the research, the acceptance declined amongst White adults from 56% to 52%, while it increased from 69% to 75% for Black adults. However, White adults were more likely than Black adults to have been vaccinated.

Professor Carin Runciman of the Centre of Social Change, says White adults are more likely to rather try other treatments instead of taking the vaccine. She says there is also a difference between men and women.

“Our findings demonstrate that men are slightly more vaccine accepting than women. We demonstrate that 74% of men are willing to vaccinate compared to 70% of women but that they are slightly less likely to have been vaccinated. So the difference between men’s intention to vaccinate and the uptake of the vaccination, likely stem from different issues. Access may be one.”

Increase in vaccine acceptance 

South Africans in general are acceptable of the COVID-19 vaccine. The report showing vaccine acceptance increased from 67% to 72%.

The most common explanation for accepting the vaccine is the desire of people to protect themselves and their loved ones against the virus.

Professor Narina Bohler-Muller of the HSRC says their research showed younger people, 18+ years old, are less accepting of the vaccine trusting in their own immunity or saying they will wait for another year before getting vaccinated. She says their findings indicate the more information people have about the vaccine the more acceptable they become towards it.

“So the more people know, the more accepting they become. Knowledge is power. So if this is a battle for the hearts and minds of people, we need to make sure we communicate clearly and we need to make sure we communicate on the right channels. So perhaps our challenge is not so much about demand but getting vaccines to the people.”

South Africans living in suburbs more likely to be vaccinated 

The study further showed South Africans living in suburbs are more likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19 than people living in rural areas, although people in rural areas are more accepting of the vaccine.

Director of the Centre for Social Change at the University of Johannesburg, Kate Alexander says people with medical aid are also more likely to be vaccinated than people without. She says political party affiliations also play a part in people’s stance toward the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The rate of acceptance is considerably higher amongst ANC supporters, than among those of the DA and the EFF. And has increased among ANC supporters and declined amongst supporters of the other two parties.”

Vaccine acceptance report below: