Despite the lifting of most COVID-19 restrictions, a panel of experts warns that South Africa is not yet out of the woods. During a virtual conference, they reiterated that the vaccine is still the best form of virus protection.
Experts delved into the challenges which have contributed to the low vaccine uptake.
Less than 45% of the South African population has been vaccinated, a far cry from the government’s 75% target.
South Africa has been grappling with low demand for vaccines. One health expert has attributed this to a trust deficit between residents and government communication.
Health’s Acting Chief Director Dr Lesley Bramford says, “People want information from a source that they trust. There’s been a lot of information and misinformation.
“There has been a lot of misinformation that has been flowing. But the biggest finding is that people want information from a source they can trust.”
The panelists have identified the younger population as the most vaccine-hesitant. Their research shows that large metros and informal settlements have recorded a low vaccination rate. They’re proposing a change in some norms to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
Researcher Jane Simmonds says, “I think if we frame our conversation today into what will become the new norm in the population that is resistant. What can we do structurally to address vaccine hesitancy so it does not involve an individual decision but something that is driven by communities.”
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So far the government has used various methods to communicate the benefits of vaccinations to the most vulnerable. Other efforts include engaging with local leaders, such as preachers, ward councillors and Chiefs.
Communicating in all the 11 official languages also contributed to over 50 000 people getting the jab within a period of 3 months.
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