Vaccine hesitancy persists as Covid-19 spreads in South Africa, report shows

South Africans are still disseminating misinformation and expressing doubts about the Covid-19 vaccine. File picture: Pexels

South Africans are still disseminating misinformation and expressing doubts about the Covid-19 vaccine. File picture: Pexels

Published Sep 21, 2023


As Covid-19 continues to spread, giving rise to new variants, South Africans are still disseminating misinformation and expressing doubts about the Covid-19 vaccine.

What is even more concerning are the persistent negative reactions among parents regarding the vaccination of immuno-compromised five to 11-year-old children. These findings come from the most recent RCCE Social Listening and Infodemic Management trends report.

Despite concerns about new Covid-19 variants, notably Eris and Pirola, the report reveals a decline in online conversations and a waning interest in vaccines.

Over the past seven days, a total of 12,298 vaccines were administered in the country: 4,988 for the first dose, 1,166 for the Pfizer second dose, 5,359 as general booster doses, and 785 as continuous booster doses, all as of September 3, 2023.

With this diminished interest, dangerous misinformation is also being spread, along with Covid-19 discussions that may perpetuate the spread of unfounded rumours.

Some opinions include claims like “Covid-19 is a highly mutated form of a severe flu created in a lab” or “seeking treatment at a hospital will likely result in a body bag because some pharmaceutical companies need record profits this year”.

Furthermore, persistent negative reactions persist among parents regarding the vaccination of five to 11-year-old immuno-compromised children.

These reactions stem from fears of side effects, vaccine harm, low confidence in vaccines, complacency rooted in past experiences, and ongoing misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.

Some common sentiments suggest that governments are exploiting children to advance an agenda that involves imposing new lockdowns and mandates.

Additionally, some accuse authorities of coercing people into vaccination through "fear-based propaganda," while others demand proof of Covid-19's existence.

The dangerous sentiment of "Covid is fake news" continues as parents assert that they will not vaccinate their children with what they perceive as 'poison'.

Another common opinion is that vaccination is merely another avenue for profit, with claims that Pfizer is influencing governments to issue vaccines. Despite this, it is encouraging that a few individuals attempt to debunk this misinformation.

However, it's important to note that the world is not solely populated by anti-vaxxers and vaccine hesitancy. Some South Africans are dedicated to combating misinformation and fake news.

In response to misinformation, some individuals express their concerns that immuno-compromised children are not receiving vaccinations in the face of rising new variants and heightened exposure to Covid-19.

Members of the pro-vaccination group SouthAfricaVacciNation welcome the news of Pfizer's availability and eagerly seek to obtain it annually. Citizens continue to seek access to both public and private vaccination sites.

Questions about vaccines also persist, such as inquiries about the approval of Pfizer vaccines by SAHPRA, the availability of J&J vaccines, and the frequency of Covid-19 vaccine availability.

Lastly, some observations have been made about the international context, noting that people abroad are once again wearing masks in an effort to curb the virus' spread.

Debunking Misinformation:

Myth: People who have been vaccinated are more likely to get seriously ill from Covid-19.

Truth: There is no evidence to support this claim; in fact, the opposite is true. Vaccinated individuals are far less likely to experience severe symptoms.

Misinformation: Vaccines are harmful to people who are immuno-compromised.

Truth: Covid-19 vaccines are made available to provide ongoing protection, especially for older individuals and those who are immuno-compromised, as they are at the highest risk of severe Covid-19 complications.