Vaccine hesitancy is less about avoiding the jab and more about getting access to it, experts say

23 August 2021 - 08:00 By alex patrick
Experts say vaccine hesitancy is less about avoiding the jab and more about getting access to the jab.
Experts say vaccine hesitancy is less about avoiding the jab and more about getting access to the jab.
Image: SUNDAY TIMES/ALAISTER RUSSELL

Vaccine hesitancy is less about avoiding the jab and more about getting access to it. 

This is according to Business for SA’s (B4SA) Timothy Schultz who said the country needed to reduce the barriers to access if it wanted more people to get vaccinated.

“There are very few barriers for the middle classes, but if you are living on a R350 grant and your taxi fare to a vaccine site is R30 then that’s a problem that can’t be solved with advertising and posters.

“We must provide transport. It’s not just an anti-vaxx thing — yes that happens in the middle classes — but we must provide access for all.

“There is also a hunger for information but it doesn’t help if people can’t read — we must talk them through the process,” Schultz said.

“The other tool is to use people as champions for the vaccines with personal testimony. This can be done through churches, in communities and with friendships. So many elements must fall in place to increase the attractiveness of the vaccine.”

From Friday, all adults have been given the go-ahead to get vaccinated after Thursday’s announcement by the cabinet to include age groups of 18 years and older. 

According to the national coronavirus command council (NCCC), the cabinet agreed to the early inclusion of people aged between 18 and 35 in a bid to increase the uptake of the vaccine to meet the 40-million inoculation target.

So far over 10-million vaccines have been delivered with over 4-million people fully vaccinated and 7-million partially vaccinated.

According to the health department's coronavirus portal, on Friday Gauteng was leading with 2,547,097 people vaccinated followed by KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape with 1,848,196 and 1,604,891 respectively. 

The Northern Cape has the least amount with 195,794 people vaccinated with Mpumalanga and the North West also lagging behind with 497,819 (13.41%) and 530,435 (15.56%) respectively. 

On Friday the Eastern Cape was leading the way with 24.49% of the population vaccinated, followed by the Western Cape with 24.41% and Limpopo with 22.52%. 

The Eastern Cape has over 700 vaccination sites available while Gauteng has 402.

David Harrison, CEO of the DG Murray Trust, agreed with Schultz’s assessment that there needs to be more access to vaccination.

“There are three groups of people who respond differently to vaccines. The first are eager, willing and able to take the vaccine — they make up around 60% of the population. The second are those who are willing to take the vaccine if the barriers to them getting vaccinated are addressed — they make up around 30% of the population. And the last 10% are those who are hesitant and resistant.”

Harrison said there was a lot to be gained if they could get the first two groups to vaccine sites. This would get the number of people vaccinated to 90% of the population. 

He said the last group could be persuaded by seeing the outcome from the first two groups. 

According to Harrison, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo both had active mobilisation bringing vaccines to rural communities. Limpopo had gone to faith-based organisations tapping into the trust people place on religious leaders. 

“In rural areas, if traditional leadership says come forward and vaccinate then people will do so. Fragmented environments like Johannesburg need far more intervention. We need community or geological-based strategies where we cover an area like Daveyton [township in Ekurhuleni] or Orange Farm [township outside Johannesburg]. We need pop-up sites and to go area by area.

“In Ekurhuleni the uptake is the lowest and they have big sprawling informal settlements.”

Schultz said the plan was to tackle the vaccine rollout like an election campaign. 

“A campaign uses press releases and billboards etc. But we need to get to the people and the various associations to spread the word.”

He said turning pharmacies into vaccine centres was one way they were getting vaccines to people in rural communities. 

“Pharmacies are a trusted network throughout the country and they are in every community. 

“We need to send the message that vaccines work and they’re safe and we have protocols to manage side effects.

“People find risk hard to think about so they stress. People need to know that the risk in dying of Covid-19 is high but people can’t be frightened into taking the vaccine because they will just shut down. It’s a complex issue and all of society has the responsibility to do their bit. 

“‘Seat belts' is an interesting analogy — if you get into a car accident seat belts will protect you. They won’t prevent a crash but they will make things better for you if you do crash. Taking the vaccine can’t stop you from getting Covid-19 — but then none of the people with Covid-19 in ICU have taken the vaccine.

“This requires 40-million individual decisions. We need to normalise vaccines, we need to approach people with a different angle. There is no single button to push.”

TimesLIVE


Experts say vaccine hesitancy is less about avoiding the jab and more about getting access to the jab.
Experts say vaccine hesitancy is less about avoiding the jab and more about getting access to the jab.
Image: SUNDAY TIMES/ALAISTER RUSSELL
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