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Ramaphosa on vaccine charm offensive as study finds people believe prayer is effective against Covid-19

While many are willing to be vaccinated, just as many people polled believed prayer was more effective against infection. File photo.
While many are willing to be vaccinated, just as many people polled believed prayer was more effective against infection. File photo.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo

President Cyril Ramaphosa was due to visit vaccination sites on Thursday to encourage citizens to get the jab as a study found seven in 10 South Africans had scant trust in the government’s ability to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines were safe.

The Afrobarometer survey, released on Wednesday, suggested that a majority of people were unlikely to try to get vaccinated and close to half believed that prayer was more effective than a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 infection.

“As a third wave of Covid-19 infections spreads across SA, the government is promoting vaccination as the way to end the pandemic. As of July 2021, department of health data indicate that more than 2.3-million South Africans have tested positive for Covid-19 since March 2020 and at least 68,000 have lost their lives to the disease,” said a statement by Afrobarometer partner, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR).

“If South Africans distrust the Covid-19 vaccine, this will pose a significant challenge for the government’s mass vaccination programme.”

Key findings of the survey were:

  • Fewer than three in 10 South Africans (28%) said they trusted the government “somewhat” or “a lot” to ensure the safety of vaccines. Seven in 10 expressed “just a little” (27%) or no trust at all (43%).
  • A majority (54%) of citizens said they were “somewhat unlikely” (12%) or “very unlikely” (42%) to try to get vaccinated.
  • Older South Africans, those with no formal education, men, and rural residents expressed a greater inclination to receive a vaccination than younger, more educated, female and urban citizens.
  • Almost half (47%) of citizens believed prayer was more effective than a vaccine to prevent infection. A quarter (25%) believed vaccines were more effective.

The Afrobarometer team in SA, led by the ISS and Plus 94 Research, interviewed 1,600 adult South Africans in May and June. A sample of this size was reported to yield country-level results with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.

BusinessLIVE reported, however, that the findings were in contrast to other surveys which reported higher levels of vaccine acceptance, ranging from 76% reported in the fifth round of the Nids-Cram survey and 67% reported by the Human Sciences Research Council Covid-19 Democracy survey conducted in December 2020 and January 2021.

Ramaphosa was scheduled to visit a public health facility in Thembisa and a private-public partnership centre in Midrand on Thursday.

“The president’s visit will serve to motivate greater numbers of South Africans to embrace vaccination as the most effective weapon in the fight against Covid-19,” acting spokesperson for the president Tyrone Seale said in a statement.

“Covid-19 vaccines are a safe and effective defence against serious illness, hospitalisation and death.”


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