North West low vaccination numbers

Despite having surpassed the one million mark for vaccine doses administered, North West remains one of South Africa’s worst-performing provinces in South Africa.

Misinformation on social media, vaccine hesitancy and in some cases, difficulty in accessing farming communities because of security concerns are claimed to be some of the reasons the province’s numbers remain low.

By 3 October, 1,032,688 vaccine doses had been administered across 90 vaccine sites.

According to Professor Binu Luke, head of the provincial Covid-19 response team, misinformation and the spread of falsehoods on social media are some of the reasons causing delays in getting people to vaccinate.

“There are some people who are spreading lies on social media and telling people that if you are vaccinated, you will suffer from erectile dysfunction or your DNA will be altered. Some have even gone to the extent of telling people that the vaccine has got a microchip embedded in it. Such lies and misinformation are disturbing our efforts of bringing vaccines to the people. A negative attitude within some communities and lack of knowledge are a huge cause for concern,” he says.

Luke says another issue is that there are not enough people registering on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS).

“We have not yet reached a stage where there is a big enough demand for vaccines in the province. It seems like our people are waiting for a tragedy to happen and then they will come forward to get vaccinated.

“If not enough people are coming forward to get vaccinated, we might see ourselves going back to Level 4. If we look at other countries like England, they had waited for 80% of the population to be vaccinated before easing restrictions to the level that South Africa has. We are only nearing the 30% mark.”

Meanwhile, the Vooma Vaccination Weekends, as recently announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, are also taking place in North West. Speaking at the launch of the Vooma Vaccination Weekend , North West Health MEC Madoda Sambatha said efforts to bring vaccines to people have begun to pay off. “Our efforts to persuade our communities to register to vaccinate have finally started to bear fruit as we see in our daily numbers of vaccines administered.

The health department in the province has various strategies in place to promote access to vaccines in communities. Vaccines are now available at pop-up sites at shopping malls, churches, car washes, and other frequented places to ensure that access to registration and vaccination is enhanced.

(Source: Spotlight – health journalism in the public interest)