Jackie and Venir Ramjattan and Mumsie Govender, from Malvern, enjoyed the cheerful atmosphere at the Moses Mabhida Stadium vaccination station. Duncan Guy.
Jackie and Venir Ramjattan and Mumsie Govender, from Malvern, enjoyed the cheerful atmosphere at the Moses Mabhida Stadium vaccination station. Duncan Guy.

Covid-19 vaccine: FOMO or fear of the jab

By Tanya Waterworth, Duncan Guy Time of article published May 29, 2021

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Durban - FOMO (fear of missing out) ‒ or fear of the vaccine ‒ have emerged as two opposing trends in the second week of vaccine roll-out.

While thousands of over-60s arrived at vaccination sites across the country, queueing patiently for the jab, thousands of others have not yet registered on the government’s Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS).

There was also confusion around walk-ins or whether to wait to receive the registration SMS detailing time and date for a vaccine appointment.

Heading up the EVDS, the Department of Health deputy director-general Dr Nicholas Crisp said yesterday that while there had been a rush to get vaccinations, “everyone who has registered to get the vaccine, will get it”.

He said vaccine supplies were arriving in the country every week and each site manager had to handle the practical logistics for each day. This included the number of those with appointments who arrived, no shows, as well as the number of vaccines, syringes and staff available. The vaccines for no-shows are given to walk-ins.

“It’s early days yet and there’s a long journey ahead, so it’s not a surprise that there’s some confusion.Those who received an SMS should be first in the queue,” said Crisp, adding that “this will settle down and there will be less and less no shows as people take up appointments and less walk-ins”.

“We don’t want super-spreader events, so please be patient and wait for your appointment, if you have registered you will get the vaccine. It’s important to realise we are in this together, we are trying really hard and we are relying on public co-operation and to all work together,” he said.

Crisp added that the EVDS provided a site within 10km in urban areas and 30km in rural areas for appointments, but there had been glitches in the system, for example where a person registering did not provide the correct address code. (There are many “Old Main Road” addresses in South Africa).

He said that more than 3 million people had registered, with 2 million in the over-60 age group and one million healthcare workers. Close to 500 000 healthcare workers and 300 000 over-60s had been vaccinated since last Friday.

He added the department was aware of the fear of the vaccine in some communities and that this was being addressed.

The Independent on Saturday visited the Moses Mabhida People’s Park vaccination site yesterday where the atmosphere was festive as people lined up to get their jabs.

Octogenarian Jackie Ramjattan joked that it was a chance to get something free from the state, while his wife Venir remarked on the positive experience.

Heather McTavish, left, and Brenda Bennison came to the Moses Mabhida Stadium vaccination station armed with books in anticipation of a long wait, but were processed so quickly they never got a word in. Duncan Guy

Heather McTavish from Durban North said: “It was all most impressive. The right people were doing the right job at the right time and it was very pleasant. The staff had a sense of humour.”

Heather Fountain, of Morningside, praised the site manager as being “very organised, friendly and funny”.

Hans Held, from Westville, said he had gone to Moses Mabhida after being at Addington Hospital the previous day where vaccines had run out in the early afternoon. Reports from queues outside Addington Hospital during the week were also positive.

The IOS also received an email from a “frustrated pensioner” in a retirement village, who said residents were told the Department of Health would be coming with vaccines but did not arrive this week as expected.

“We received a message telling us that due to the shortage of vaccine, we must make our own arrangements to find somewhere to go that had vaccines,” she said.

ACTIVATE Change Drivers health sector manager Patrick Mcobothi says young people need to help the older generation to register for the vaccine.

Meanwhile, Patrick Mcobothi, health sector manager for Activate Change Drivers, a national network of young leaders, said this week that “vaccine hesitancy” was the most serious threat to overcoming the pandemic.

Mcobothi, who lives in Chesterville, said “fear, a lack of transparency and media reports about vaccine side effects have all fuelled the rumour mill in communities, urban and rural”.

“People are saying no to the vaccine, not even thinking about it. The biggest challenge is overcoming the glut of fake news running unchecked and to counter it with credible information which can be easily understood ‒ and most importantly, it should be in everyone’s home language,” said Mcobothi.

“In my own community and in the communities we engage in, I’ve seen no gogos being registered, no posters and no teams going out to inform people about vaccines,” he said,

Mcobothi and his team recently attended a presentation on the Covid-19 vaccine by the SA Medical Research Council.

“When scientists speak on the radio about ‘herd immunity’, I can’t even explain that in my own language, isiZulu. So how do we fix that? We need information in all South African official languages,” he said, adding that their organisation with more than 4 000 activators were ready to help the over-60s to register.

He explained lack of data and technological knowledge made registering more difficult for elderly people.

“Our main vision is to share the science around the vaccine with young people, who can then take it home to their families.”

The Independent on Saturday

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