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Survey finds Covid-19 vaccine side effects main driver of hesitancy in SA

PhD research trainee at the HSRC, Yamkela Majikijela, said around 30% of the participants cited ‘side effects’ as the reason why they haven’t received a shot. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

PhD research trainee at the HSRC, Yamkela Majikijela, said around 30% of the participants cited ‘side effects’ as the reason why they haven’t received a shot. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published May 27, 2022

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Only half of South Africa’s 40 million adults have received a Covid-19 vaccine, and according to a survey, vaccine general effectiveness and side effects are the main drivers of vaccine hesitancy in the country.

The online survey was conducted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and involved 6 633 participants.

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Presenting the findings from the survey, PhD research trainee at the HSRC, Yamkela Majikijela, said around 30% of the participants cited “side effects” as the reason why they haven’t received a shot.

Vaccine ineffectiveness accounted for 24% of responses, and distrust was 21%.

The survey, which has been running for two years over five rounds, found that the 18-34 age group was more hesitant compared to other age groups.

Majikijela said that while vaccination rates are low, vaccine hesitancy declined slightly from 28% in round 4 of the survey undertaken between 25 June and 20 July 2021 to 25% in round 5 undertaken between 22 October and 17 November 2021.

By mid-2021, she said that 10% of people were vaccinated and were 61% favourable, with hesitancy at 28%.

In November’s round 5, 36% were vaccinated and 38% favourable, with 25% hesitant.

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“Results show that the 'accepting' are increasingly getting the Covid-19 vaccine, but a large share of this group remain unvaccinated,” she said.

Since the start of the rollout in February 2021, 19.8 million people have been inoculated, which represents 49% of South Africa’s adult population.

Government had set a target of vaccinating about two-thirds of adults by the end of 2021, a goal that could not be achieved.

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Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Pinky Kekana, who led the webinar on Thursday, said vaccine hesitancy prevents the country from living beyond the pandemic and focusing on the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) aimed at rebuilding the country.

“This is nowhere near the 70% of our population being fully vaccinated that we estimated we would be by this stage. At 49.86%, it is anticipated that the country should achieve the 50% within the next few days.

“We know that some things we cannot fix overnight, one of them being the trust in government due to the extensive levels of corruption. I can only say and show it in my actions that not all of us are involved in anti-nation building and corruption, (and) give you reason to be suspicious. Some of us are focused on the well-being of our people,” Kekana said.

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