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Surging death toll fails to convince vaccine-wary South Africans

Deaths from the virus in the country rose 72% week-on-week as of Monday.
Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

One of the world’s fastest pace of deaths from Covid-19 infections hasn’t been able to trounce widespread hesitancy over vaccines in South Africa.

Deaths from the virus in the country rose 72% week-on-week as of Monday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, the fifth-fastest worldwide and behind only Zimbabwe on the continent. Yet a lack of communication coupled with anti-vaccine propaganda may be responsible for daily doses languishing almost 50% below President Cyril Ramaphosa’s target, health experts have warned.

“There is definitely vaccine hesitancy,” said Vicky Baillie, senior researcher at the Wits Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics unit, which ran local trials for the AstraZeneca Plc and Novavax Inc. candidates. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people who just don’t understand the information that’s available, but if you talk them through the information they 100% come around.”

South Africa’s vaccine program has suffered numerous setbacks, of which wariness among the over-60 priority group is just one. The government was slow to place orders when other countries were stocking up last year, opted not to use the AstraZeneca candidate following adverse trial results, while deliveries from Johnson & Johnson were delayed after a manufacturing glitch.

Weekend closures

Public vaccine sites also remain largely closed at the weekend, drawing widespread criticism, and just over 3.8 million doses have been administered to a population of about 60 million. The daily figure was more than 180 000 on Wednesday, compared with what Ramaphosa has said is a target of 300 000.

“I think what makes me afraid to take the vaccine, is that at this age, no doctor has ever said to me that I was sick,” Dullice Peterson, 93, said by phone from the southern Johannesburg district of Eldorado Park. “What’s scary about the vaccine is that you don’t know what it is and what it’s made of.”

More information could help her decide, she said, adding that word of mouth was currently a chief source of knowledge.

As in many other parts of the world, a prominent driver of vaccine hesitancy is social media messaging saying the doses are not safe or don’t work, Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation on June 27. “Please consider the harm you may be causing,” he said, urging people to “think long and hard before you press share or send.”

Yet the government — and the president himself — could be working a lot harder to communicate the efficacy of the double-dose Pfizer Inc. and single-shot J&J versions currently being used, according to Jeffrey Mphahlele, vice president for research at the South African Medical Research Council.

“I don’t feel the communication from government is coming out strong — I would like to hear more voices,” he said. Ramaphosa “should seize the moment every time he is in public to really emphasize the importance of vaccination.”

Promising signs

Still, there are signs the country’s roll out could accelerate from this point — even if it’s largely too late to address the ongoing third wave. Over-50s became eligible this week, and news reports showed long queues at sites in Johannesburg despite cold winter temperatures.

Most public vaccine sites now accept registered walk-ins, having dropped an earlier system that asked for people to wait for an appointment, while about 4.5 million delivered doses have yet to be administered.

For Dullice Peterson, who grew up in the township of Alexandra and has six children and 30 grandchildren, she’s looking to the younger generation to lead the way.

“What will make me take the vaccine is if my children say to me ‘mummy, we feel you must take the vaccination — at your age and at this time do not take chances.’”

© 2021 Bloomberg

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When the average South African sees lock down rules but then sees taxis running full and non-compliance in the townships, it is difficult to convince the political and vaccine-wary South Africans.

“….vaccine-wary South Africans”

2021 World Economic Forum, Davos and Ramaphosa with other leaders at their media photo shoot with masks on and spaced apart

Moments later off-camera, video and photo’s taken probably by waiters or clerks expose the lie as all heads of states and entourage are without masks, hugging, shaking hands, kissing cheeks

Covid plandemic will one day been seen as an exercise of how much leaders and governments can terrorise their own populace

Sun Valley, Idaho 07/2021 Big Tech, Pharma, investment etc moguls arrive with face masks on. Captured behind the scenes in the hundreds, including personal staff …mingling over drinks and open buffet of fine foods ….all a farce to this “terrifying” flu

6 children and 30 grandchildren……

“Anti-vaccine propaganda”. I would say the only “propaganda” being pushed is the advertising by government and Pfizer/AZ and Moderna for a vaccine that has not completed full trials yet (and for which the pharma companies have been given full liability by government.) Vaccines that are not proving to be fully effective against the new strains (see Seychelles, Israel and the UK).

By the time we have the vaccines ready to be rolled out, the population will be close to natural herd immunity due to exposure to the latest variant.

Again, this whole response has been a massive overreaction – follow the money back to Big Pharma and politicians in their pockets and you will get your ‘cui bono’.

This is probably because most knowledgeable people have realised it is better to build natural immunity against a flu virus on steroids than putting billions of mRNA and Spike proteins, cluttering their micro blood vessels, into their bodies.

To the comments Moderator:

I have noticed that you have censored my previous comment. Please note that you are in breach of the Nuremberg Code, by withholding the truth from the public during a medical experiment. You are hereby reminded that the “vaccine” injections are currently not proven as safe and effective, and can at best be called an experimental gene modifying therapy.

End of comments.

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