Picture: 123RF/S SILVER
Picture: 123RF/S SILVER

Seventy-one percent of SA adults say they would be willing to get a Covid-19 vaccine if one was offered to them, according to a major new study that not only reveals a more positive outlook than previously reported in SA, but also offers important insights into who does not want a jab and why.

The study has been released less than a week before the government plans to launch the biggest vaccination drive in SA’s history. The national rollout of Covid-19 shots is due to begin on May 17, and aims to vaccinate 46-million adults by March 2022.

The National Income Dynamics Study — Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) has been conducted four times since the coronavirus pandemic began, allowing researchers to track trends in key issues such as employment and education. Data for the fourth round of the survey was collected between February 2 and March 10 2021, and for the first time included detailed questions about people’s willingness to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The survey included 5,629 interviews and was nationally representative.

While the study’s estimate of people’s willingness to get vaccinated was the highest yet recorded in SA, it was conducted before the government temporarily paused the use of Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine pending a safety investigation triggered by US reports of extremely rare blood clots, said study co-author Ronelle Burger, an economist at the University of Stellenbosch. Fears and concerns about receiving the vaccine could have been heightened by the pause, she said. Vaccine hesitancy was dynamic, and might also shift as the vaccine rollout gained momentum, she said.

The Human Sciences Research Council Covid-19 Democracy survey conducted in December 2020 and January 2021 estimated vaccine intention at 67%, while the Ipsos-World Economic Forum survey 2021 reported vaccine intention at 64% at the end of February. The NIDS-CRAM results suggest vaccine acceptance in SA is higher than recent estimates from the US and France, but lower than China, Brazil and the UK, said the researchers.

Among the 29% of respondents who were vaccine hesitant, the three leading reasons for their hesitancy were that they were worried about the side-effects (31%), did not believe it was effective (21%) or did not trust vaccines in general (18%).

The youth (aged between 18 and 24) were significantly more likely to say they would not get a vaccine if one were available than people over the age of 60 and those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, lung conditions or HIV. Burger said these results were encouraging, as the people at highest risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19 were more willing than the general population to accept a Covid-19 vaccine.

People who said they use social media as a trusted information source were significantly more resistant to getting a Covid-19 shot, as were people who identified Afrikaans as their home language. Forty-two percent of Afrikaans home language respondents were vaccine hesitant.  

kahnt@businesslive.co.za

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