But government must address issues of mistrust and vaccine side effects to attract more vaxxers.
Two out of three South Africans are willing to get vaccinated when they are eligible but almost half of the population is not aware of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan, a survey by Ask Afrika showed on Monday.
The survey, which sampled 2 000 South Africans, recorded a lower vaccine acceptance rate than previous surveys conducted by the University of Johannesburg (in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)) and the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile (NIDS-CRAM) Survey, which saw vaccine acceptance at 71% and 76% respectively.
According to the survey’s findings, lack of trust (29%) in the vaccine and fear of side effects (23%) are real barriers to getting people to vaccinate.
The survey further revealed that few people understand why it is important to get vaccinated; this is evident in the survey’s low message recall numbers. Only 31% of South Africans understand that the vaccine will protect lives and 21% understand that the vaccination will minimise the infection rate.
Almost a third (28%) of South Africans are unwilling to get vaccinated; the survey links this unwillingness to high levels of emotional distress.
“The emotional distress is exceptionally high: it’s an average of above 50% which means that half of our citizens are under emotional distress. Now if you are on continuous emotional distress, it’s like post-traumatic stress disorder – you’re less able to receive messaging.
“The 28% of citizens that we saw are unwilling to vaccinate, are unwilling to even listen to Covid messaging, which makes it very hard to reach that segment,” Ask Afrika CEO Andrea Rademeyer said.
Survey results also indicated that of the vaccine-hesitant population, the country’s coloured population are least willing to get vaccinated, with 45% unwilling to get the jab. The survey linked this unwillingness to the community’s lack of trust in government.
“The coloured community is less likely to trust government. Vaccine communications have mainly been from government; business has not been as visible. For that reason I think where the coloured community has less trust in government communications they will be less likely to actually believe government messaging [on vaccines],” Rademeyer said.
Doctors and nurses are the most trusted source of vaccine advice and celebrity influencers and community WhatsApp groups are the least trusted.
To combat vaccine hesitancy, government will have to address issues of mistrust in the vaccine and people’s fears of side effects. Researchers also recommended tailoring messaging to appeal to different demographics and to focus on why the vaccination against the coronavirus is important to ensure higher message recall.