COVID-19 vaccination brings more uncertainties

By Yonelisa Mabotyi

South African has started rolling out COVID-19 vaccine in a three-phase approach that begins with most vulnerable citizens. Despite campaigns and assurances that the vaccines are safe, many people remain sceptical about the safety of getting the vaccines. These doubts are propelled by the conspiracy theories claiming the vaccines are meant to harm Africans.

Other concerns involve the slow procurement of these vaccines that often results in inconsistent vaccine rollout. Some health practitioners who fall under the first phase deemed for the most vulnerable, say that they had to fight the government for vaccines. Mwayi Mphalalo, a healthcare worker, for the Motherwell outreach in Port Elizabeth says, “We finally got vaccinated after we had to fight for it. The inconsistency of the rollout was a great concern for us. Only people who work in hospitals were prioritised, while we are the ones at risk. We are the first responders to COVID-19 cases, we go to people’s homes and interact with patients before they are taken to the hospital.”

COVID-19 has created a high demand for vaccines, which has opened lucrative markets for organised criminal groups to exploit. Counterfeit vaccines have been reported in South Africa. The illegal trade in counterfeit medicines presents a significant threat. In addition to the negative impact on markets, economies and livelihoods, it also severely affects the health sector and discredits it in the eyes of the public.

Lack of clarity on the vaccine, concerns over side effects, fighting conspiracy theories online and slow rollout pace exacerbates the uncertainties expressed by the South African population. This will inevitably lead to more deaths.

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