Misinformation is one of the leading causes of vaccine hesitation among South Africans. 

South Africa’s covid-19 vaccination program is alive and kicking, with 20.27% of the population vaccinated. There is, however, a significant number of South Africans who are hesitant to get their vaccine shot. 

“I have not registered for the covid vaccine, and I will not register for it,” education student at the University of Pretoria, Feranah Burger (21), told Wits Vuvuzela.  

“Personally, I do not trust the vaccine,” says Burger. Her hesitance is motivated by how rapidly the vaccine has been developed. “I feel like they have not done enough research on the vaccine,” she adds. 

Thato Ramasike (22), BCom finance student from the University of Johannesburg, says she has registered for the vaccine but, she does not believe it will effectively combat the virus. “This is because I have witnessed people who have gotten the vaccine and still pass away. Also, the vaccine does not guarantee that one will not contract covid,” she says.  

Sphiwe Maila, a nurse and site manager from the Atteridgeville Clinic, says misinformation is the biggest contributor to vaccine hesitation.  

“Religious and cultural beliefs also influence people’s decisions,” Maila told Wits Vuvuzela. He added that people feared the side effects of the vaccine and concluded that the recent deaths in the community are because of the vaccine. 

A survey conducted by the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) and the University of Johannesburg between June 25 to June 20, indicated that 30% of South Africans between the ages of 18 and 34 are hesitant due to side effects, 18% are concerned with the effectiveness of the vaccine, while 21% do not trust the vaccine. A total of 7 889 people participated.   

Social media was found by the survey to play a vital role in informing society about vaccines, but it sometimes could be misleading.  

Maila added that the youth were also discouraging their elders from getting vaccinated.  

There are still elders (classified as over 60-year-olds) who have not vaccinated because their grandchildren or younger members of the community are their main sources of information. 

“The youth are more technologically advanced, which leads them to google and misdiagnose themselves,” says sister Rita van der Gryps, site manager of the Council of Chambers vaccination site for FF Ribeiro Clinic in Pretoria.  

She encourages the youth to do thorough research about the vaccine, using informative sites like the Department of Health’s vaccine portal or calling the vaccine hotline. 

Information sites like Bhekisisa  provide factual and informative crash courses about what you need to know regarding covid-19, including the different variants and vaccine brands. 

  With the under 35 cohort open to registration from August 20, 2021, and daily covid-19 cases in the country still rising at a rapid rate, it is important this age group has accurate and valid information, about the type of vaccine they will be receiving, potential side effects, and the purpose of the vaccine. 

  FEATURED IMAGE: Health nurse, Tsholofelo Maphokga vaccinating Tjele Matshidiso (75) at the Atteridgeville community hall. Photo: Dumisani Mnisi.