South Africa takes advantage of the high transmission of the omicron to increase the rate of vaccination against covid | Society

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A nurse prepares a dose of the coronavirus vaccine in Dutywa, a municipality in southeastern South Africa.
A nurse prepares a dose of the coronavirus vaccine in Dutywa, a municipality in southeastern South Africa.SIPHIWE SIBEKO (Reuters)

The South African government has condemned the restrictions imposed by several European countries and the United States on flights arriving from South Africa, after it announced that it had detected a new variant, the omicron. Given the serious economic consequences, especially for the tourism sector, the Executive has decided to take advantage of the peak of infections – more than 16,000 new positives on Friday – to relaunch the vaccination campaign, since only 37% of its 59.3 million inhabitants are immunized. To do this, it offers incentives and rewards to those who receive the puncture.

South Africa, which announced in its day the claim to have 70% of its population vaccinated before the end of the year, spoke of 40% last week. To achieve this, public health officials have been deployed throughout the country at fixed and mobile points. It has been weeks since it was necessary to make an appointment and the radio and television reminded that there is a website where the nearest immunization point can be located.

The government has also started offering incentives to increase the number of doses inoculated (26 million). David Harrison, Executive Director of the DG Murray Trust Foundation, which collaborates with the Ministry of Health in the management of the rewards, explains that those over 50 years receive 200 rand (12.5 euros; in a country with a per capita income of about 4,500 euros per year) at the time of the first dose. “We have also launched prizes of different amounts that have begun to be raffled this week among all citizens who present the vaccination card,” he adds. Of the 10 million people over 50 in the country, four million have not been vaccinated; and 80% of deaths from covid affect that band.

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Harrison says that vaccination has accelerated after the appearance of the omicron. “Last week, before the announcement of the discovery of the new variant, 120,000 doses were administered a day throughout the country. After President Ramaphosa’s announcement, last Sunday, 180,000 people were inoculated, and in the following days it dropped a little, but not from 145,000 people a day, ”he explains.

The government vaccination campaign Vooma (which comes from Afrikaans “woema“,” Energy and speed “, and from the ngumi” vuma “,” agree “) includes the real-time collection of information in the Electronic Vaccination Data System, in which, in addition to nationals, it has been decided to include migrants and citizens without documentation. The objective is to avoid any impediment for those who are in the territory to receive the vaccine, and to reduce the impact of the omicron variant in hospitals.

Fight rejection

At DG Murray Trust they have been studying the evolution of access to vaccines in the country for months. They claim that there was a significant “information gap” when vaccines became available. “The action focused on logistics, distribution, instead of thinking about how to tell the population that it was important to get the vaccine, and this was joined by misinformation and some conspiracy theories,” says Harrison, convinced that now it is being achieved increase the vaccination rate because it is local leaders, and not politicians, who get the message across.

The reasons why more than half of the South Africans who are invited to be vaccinated (they can do it from the age of 12) do not do so, are divided by age groups, socioeconomic conditions and sometimes by ethnic groups. “Those over 60 have felt insecure in the face of the explanations that came to them and have preferred to follow their leaders in the community. Those who are between 34 and 59 years old base religious reasons or faith, repeat that “God will provide” and have fallen into disinformation. And those who are between 18 and 34 years old claim “job before jab“(” Work before vaccination “), showing their discomfort and mistrust because they feel excluded from the economic system and do not understand what benefit being vaccinated can give them”, analyzes Harrison. He also points out that there is a “complex paradox” having verified that the mestizo and white population, when asked, does not show interest in being vaccinated – most of this group has a higher economic level than the black population, although later, in the practice, yes they are vaccinated; And the black population, who in more than 60% claim to be willing to be vaccinated, cannot do so because they live in informal suburbs, with limited access to transportation and basic income, so investing time and money in going to a vaccination center is not an easy decision. “The vaccination points must be as accessible as possible to all citizens. Covid-19 is relatively important in the lives of people who lack access to basic rights and have other concerns to address in the immediate future, ”argues Harrison.

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The reasons for not getting vaccinated in South Africa are not always related to the facts, but feelings such as “anguish”, lack of confidence or economic priorities are keeping part of the population away from vaccination points. South Africa could not exploit “the moment”, the opportunity, that the population flocked to be vaccinated when inoculations began around the world because access to vaccines on the African continent was delayed for months, although, as Harrison concludes, the Current national challenges would have continued to be there, “making it difficult to access vaccines.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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