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Your Covid-19 questions answered

Did Malema’s comments about the Covid-19 vaccine lead to more people getting the jab?

26 May 2022 - 07:13
Julius Malema and the EFF marched about Covid-19 vaccines.
Julius Malema and the EFF marched about Covid-19 vaccines.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Hundreds of EFF supporters picketed outside the offices of the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) in June last year in a “march to save lives” that one study says may have led to an increase in Covid-19 vaccinations.

The party marched to demand the approval of the Russian and Chinese Covid-19 vaccines, with Malema giving a passionate speech at the event.

“We want more vaccines available. They are telling us this event is a superspreader but it is not true because we are meeting here outdoors for few minutes. From there we are going home and we comply with Covid-19 regulations

“We are not going to entertain lockdowns. Our agenda is simple: give our people vaccines. We want to open the economy, we want our artists to perform. Lockdown is not a solution. We are no longer going to entertain any lockdown,” he said at the event.

While SA health authorities have often spoken of vaccine hesitancy and challenges getting citizens to buy into the vaccine, Edison Johannes Mavundza, Duduzile Ndwandwe & Charles Shey Wiysonge from the SA Medical Research Council believe Malema’s celebrity status may have helped improve acceptance.

Safe and efficacious Covid-19 vaccines exist, but their success against the disease depends on public willingness to receive them. Vaccine hesitancy is one major obstacle to the achievement of herd immunity,” they noted.

“We believe that this march might have increased Covid-19 vaccine acceptance and uptake among EFF supporters. The endorsement of Covid-19 vaccines by Malema, an influential political figure in SA, probably convinced some vaccine hesitant South Africans that Covid-19 vaccination is important.”

It suggested vaccine endorsement by more influential South Africans “as one of the strategies to increase Covid-19 vaccine uptake”.

“The use of celebrities to increase vaccine uptake is not a new phenomenon, but we think it has been underutilised. 

“Other strategies that are known to increase vaccination uptake include health education programmes, reminders, prompts, financial incentives, training of healthcare providers, audit and feedback, and outreach interventions.”

A few months later Malema urged the youth to get the jab.

“All we are saying is that we need vaccines from China, Russia and Cuba. All vaccine that is proven to be effective must come to SA. Don't ask us whether we took the vaccine or not because the next question will be 'which one?'” said Malema.

“We want people to take the vaccine. The youth must take the vaccine. It is upon individuals to decide if they want to disclose whether they have been vaccinated or not. It's not for the EFF to announce,” he said at a media conference in August.

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