The Covid Democracy Survey indicates that more than 60% of South Africans are willing to get vaccinated against covid-19 while some fear the vaccine’s effectivity and side-effects.

Young people are the key that the South African government can use to persuade vaccine sceptics to take a coronavirus vaccine. This is according to data collected in the Covid Democracy Survey, which was published on Wednesday, February 17 during a webinar.

The survey, which had a sample size of 10 681, was conducted by the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) department of sociology, anthropology and development studies in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Based on the results from the participants, it could be deduced that 67% of the South African population are willing to take the vaccine should it become available to them.

The findings were based on the survey’s round-three questionnaire which was publicly available on the Moya Messenger application between December 29, 2020 and January 6, 2021.

The survey, conducted in English, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans and Setswana, was intended to be representative of the South African population. The survey also had more young people as participants than older people.

The main reasons why people were willing to take the vaccine was to protect themselves (29%) or to protect others (25%) from the virus. The participants who were hesitant to take the vaccine said that they were concerned with the vaccine’s side effects (25%), its effectivity (18%) and others were distrusting of the vaccine (14%). This is according to the qualitative findings of the survey, which randomly sampled 2 000 participants from the original sample size.

Senior researcher for the survey, Ngqapheli Mchunu, said that the qualitative results reflected that each participant’s approval of how the government or the president is handling the pandemic, is linked to whether the participant is willing to take the vaccine.

The first phase of mass inoculation started with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine which was administered on February 17, with health workers being prioritised. President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize were among the first recipients of the vaccine at a Cape Town hospital.

Mchunu also stated that seeing leaders in society take the vaccine could encourage people who are sceptical of the vaccine to reconsider their decision. “One can speculate that [seeing the president and the health minister] take the vaccine will encourage South Africans to take the vaccine,” said Mchunu at the webinar.

Principal investigator of the survey, Professor Kate Alexander, was not sure it was a good idea for the president to be one of the first people to receive the vaccine when he is not a health worker, as this may create a culture of “queue jumping”.

“We [risk] a situation where rather than following the priorities which are based upon ethical considerations as well as medical considerations, [the system] begins to break down and it becomes a situation where people are trying to get ahead of the queue one way or another,” said Alexander.

On young people being the key to acceptance of being vaccinated against covid-19, she said, “Let the students who have to go to the hospitals take the vaccine. It is much better that they do it and take photographs of themselves and put them up on Twitter and YouTube, that’s the way to shift opinion. It’s ordinary people who provide leadership day-to-day in society that’s more likely to shift some of the sceptics.”

The survey also found that more Africans (69%) and Indians (68%) were willing to take the vaccine compared to Coloureds (63%) and Whites (56%).

FEATURED IMAGE: Principal investigator of the survey, Professor Kate Alexander, speaking at the Who wants the vaccine, who doesn’t, and why? webinar on Wednesday, February 17.