Research by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has found that in some communities there is hesitancy about the Covid-19 vaccine programme because of lack of information from the government about vaccination.
The UJ Social Change Vaccine Rollout Project was conducted in May under the leadership of Professor Kate Alexander, South African Research Chair in Social Change, and published earlier this month.
A researcher spent three weeks at Protea South, an informal settlement in Soweto. And it is in this community that the research uncovered that some people did not take vaccination seriously and turned it into “ political jokes”, while other people said they would vaccinate when they saw other people doing so.
“The researcher met with a group of four sangomas, of whom three were opposed to vaccination and only one was in favour. They each had between five and 20 clients a day, so could be ‘influencers’ but also a potential vector for transmission. They did not understand ‘waves’ and were angry about their exclusion from education around the vaccine,” reads the research.
The research also uncovered that it was difficult for people who wanted to vaccinate to register in that area. There were Community Health Workers who went door to door to register using paper and pencil.
“Using pencil and paper to register is laborious and some people complained they had registered but had not received an acknowledgment on their phone. The system could be improved by using cheap smartphones to register people. Greater use could be made of unemployed youth, but most of them are hungry and need food.”
The research found that people in poorer communities do not have the right information “to make informed decisions about vaccination”. It found that people with smartphones and computers could read information online in English but this was not the case for people in Protea South.
According to the research communities like Protea South need information in posters on walls and flyers in their own language, and also coverage on radio and TV.
“…Even though it is free and relatively easy to register by phone, the steps are not adequately conveyed and, again, messaging has prioritised an online process. People without access to any kind of phone, and there are still many of them, must not be excluded from information and registration,” reads the research.
The research revealed that some people in that community did not have the means to travel to the vaccination site. According to the research, to get to the vaccination site in Lenasia clinic people have to take two taxis at a cost of R44.
“This is too much for most people in the settlement, so unless transport is provided many will be left unvaccinated, even though they want to be safe, and some will doubtless die as a consequence.
“People with cars and petrol money can drive around vaccination sites until they find a relatively short queue for ‘walk-ins’. This is not possible for poor people, who, as seen in this case study, do not have the funds to reach their nearest site, let alone go from one to another.”
Some of the recommendations by the research is that the government needs to make transport available to poorer people in order for them to reach vaccination sites. Recruit young people who can help with education and registration, and also provide them with smartphones and data in order to register people
“The position facing the poor of Protea South is very different from that confronting the middle classes in Africa’s richest city. Defeating the virus is not only about securing vaccines, it is also about combatting class division,” reads the research.