Vaccine hesitancy among elderly will affect the youth, doctors warn

08 July 2021 - 12:15
The SA Medical Association (Sama) warns that vaccine hesitancy among senior citizens will lead to a rise in Covid-19 infections among the younger population. File photo.
The SA Medical Association (Sama) warns that vaccine hesitancy among senior citizens will lead to a rise in Covid-19 infections among the younger population. File photo.
Image: SUNDAY TIMES/ALAISTER RUSSELL

The SA Medical Association (Sama) has warned that vaccine hesitancy among senior citizens will lead to a rise in Covid-19 infections in the younger population.

The association's warning comes after 9,113 teachers and school staff, some with comorbidities, in Gauteng refused to take the vaccination jab.

Speaking on SABC News, the association's vice chairperson Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa urged the older population and officials in sectors such as education and the police to help curb the spread of Covid-19 by taking a jab. 

He warned the older population to be cautious about the things they post on social media regarding the vaccines. 

“We have to be very creative and innovative when it comes to this issue of vaccine hesitancy,” said Mzukwa. 

“We know that there are lots of things being said about the vaccines on social media. That would mean that we need lots of education to inform the public of their rights, but also the advantages of having a vaccine and the purpose of the vaccine and how far have we gone in terms of establishing what we call the safety of the vaccine, so that people are informed and they take an informed decision to take it or not to take it.”

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), more than 184,000 children under the age of 19 tested positive for the coronavirus between March 2020 and June 2021.

“As of June 19, individuals aged 19 and younger made up 13.4% of Covid-19 tests, 10.2% of laboratory-confirmed cases, 4.2% of all Covid-19-associated admissions and 0.7% of associated deaths,” said the NICD.

“There were 1.6 million tests among individuals younger than 19 years during the surveillance period, equivalent to a testing rate of 7,598.2 per 100,000 with a 12.5% percentage testing positive.”

On Wednesday, basic education minister Angie Motshekga said more than 400,000 teachers and staff in the sector had been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

The deadline for all staff to be vaccinated was supposed to be on Thursday. However, Motshekga said the target would not be met and has been pushed to Friday.

The initial target was more than 500,000 staff in the sector, but it has now been pushed up to 789,554 to include food handlers, janitors and support staff from private schools and early childhood development centres that are based on school premises.

Last week, Gauteng's education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said the number of teachers and school staff who refused to get a jab was “extremely alarming”. 

“We are very worried that nearly 10,000 of our personnel in the Gauteng education sector are, for one reason or the other, refusing to be vaccinated against this deadly virus which has wreaked havoc in our schools and communities by taking away our loved ones,” Lesufi said.

Employees can refuse to get vaccinated on constitutional grounds, as part of their right to bodily integrity in section 12(2) and the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion in section 13 of the constitution. 


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