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What’s up with the anti-vaxxers? Corona battle also a communications war

Fighting Covid-19

It's going to be difficult to persuade the anti-vaxxers otherwise. They have taken a position. Picture: Artem Kniaz on Unsplash

By Garth Johnstone

I get it … you don’t know what’s in those vials; there are fears that the amount of time it took to develop the various vaccines was so limited compared with vaccines for previous sicknesses; and in many cases, you just don’t trust the science, the media and mainly, governments.

It would be difficult to change the views of people who have decided they don’t have faith in Covid-19 vaccines and don’t want to have them. They have taken a position.

With about 50% of eligible over-60s in SA declining to register, this is a major impediment to efforts to achieve some sort of “herd immunity”. And apparently the vaccine hesitancy, as it is referred to, exists across the age groups – there is much resistance, not just here but worldwide.

What’s in a vaccine? Salvation or something to be feared? Picture: Nakan Nural on Unsplash

What’s more concerning though, is people who say they still don’t have enough information about what Covid-19 actually is, what the vaccine can do and how it’s produced. That our government and health experts have failed to get their message through to millions of South Africans is alarming.

‘We don’t want the vaccine’

Here’s a proposal: Take 1% of the government and Solidarity Fund budget on Covid-19 going forward and pledge it to an information campaign, through radio (all indigenous languages and English), print, in-person engagement, television and digital. Get the government’s in-house employees to do the work, rather than employing consultants, to limit the potential for looting of funds. Where a more complex set of advertising/information campaigns are required, hire entertainment and communications professionals or personalities, but follow strict tender and contracting procedures in this case, and keep budgets tight.

South Africans, like nations all around the world, need to pull together to overcome the Covid-19 scourge. Picture: DocuSign on Unsplash

Tell people in their own languages again what exactly the virus is; how it can hurt you; how you can do your best to resist getting infected and sick (including easy-to-digest info and data on the vaccines and campaigns in other parts of the world); what the risks might be; and the impact if a large number of people refuse to take it. Reiterate how people can register to get vaccinated.

This information is as important as all vaccination efforts currently under way and the desperate (in some cases) firefighting going on to treat people and save lives. Provide again, and to a broader net of people, all the information they need. Until many more people – especially those working, socialising and more active in society – get the jabs, we are on a hiding to nothing against this rampant virus.

Covid-19 questions answered

In a snap survey taken locally by The Meander Chronicle we got a mixed bag of responses: some were desperate to get the jab; some would happily take it when their time came but weren’t too fazed either way; and there were those who were adamant they wanted nothing to do with it. A lot of the latter were well educated with all the information they required at their disposal.

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There is another category of people though who feel disenfranchised, as if the government has abandoned them because they are ineligible, at this stage, to get the shot. Some say they can point to direct loss of income or employment opportunities because they have yet to be vaccinated. Some fear getting sick and dying. It’s painful and far from ideal indeed, but the campaign is starting to ramp up. Unfortunately – as with many things in life – they are just going to have to wait their turn.

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