White South Africans are more vaccine hesitant — study

Vaccine hesitancy is most pronounced among White adults in South Africa, which is struggling to keep immunisation centres busy just three months into the rollout of its inoculation program, a survey showed.

Only 52% of White adults in the country are willing to get a Covid-19 shot, compared to three-quarters of their Black counterparts, researchers from the Human Sciences Research Council and the University of Johannesburg said in the highlights of a report due to be released on Wednesday.

“Side effects and concerns that the vaccine will be ineffective are the most common self-reported explanations” for vaccine hesitancy, and those concerns were particularly pronounced among White adults, the researchers said.

South Africa, which lagged behind many of its African and emerging-market peers in rolling out vaccines, is encountering mounting reluctance to take them.

While the government and private sector, with which it is working, have stipulated daily targets of between 300,000 and 420,000 inoculations, they reached a peak of 271,838 last month and fell to as low as 141,000 last week.

Reluctant Youngsters

So far, 9.56 million shots have been administered in the country, meaning 19% of adults have received at least one dose. About 7.8% of the population is White.

The survey of 7,631 people was conducted between June 25 and July 12 and was the fourth carried out by the institutions. Overall, 72% of South Africans are willing to get vaccinated, up from 67% in the third round.

The proportion of Black respondents who were willing to get a shot rose to 75%, from 69%, but among White adults it fell 4 percentage points, indicating that hesitancy is growing in that group.

While the proportion of people over 55 who were keen to get inoculated jumped by 11 percentage points between the third and fourth surveys to 85%, it slumped by eight percentage points to just 55% among those aged between 18 and 24.

Addressing the scepticism among younger adults poses a challenge for the government, which plans to allow those under 35 to be vaccinated from Sept. 1.

Despite the greater hesitancy among White South Africans, they were more likely to have been vaccinated than their Black peers, which may be due to a bigger proportion of them having access to better – and often private – healthcare facilities. Religion had little impact on people’s attitude toward vaccines, the survey showed.

The survey’s findings differ from those announced last month by Afrobarometer, which canvassed 1,600 people. It found that 54% of South Africans were unlikely to get a vaccine and almost half thought that prayer was a better defence against the coronavirus than an inoculation.

Now read: When Covid-19 fourth wave will hit South Africa

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White South Africans are more vaccine hesitant — study