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Absa Insights 2021

This is the core problem with South Africans not wanting to get vaccinated

* 11 October 2021 2:00 PM
Tags:
Bruce Whitfield
absa insights
absa insights 2021

South Africa has set itself a critical deadline to have 28 million people vaccinated by December as the fourth wave looms.

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South Africa is more vulnerable to COVID-19 than any other country on earth and, part of our vulnerability is our epidemiological make up as a population, says Aspen Pharmacare Group's Senior Executive, Dr Stavros Nicolaou.

As the country with the highest recorded HIV population in the world – with close to 9 million people infected – South Africa has a higher percentage of immunocompromised population segments than other countries, making us more vulnerable to mutations of the virus.

We represent about 5% of the world’s population but yet we harbour 18% of the world’s HIV infection rate. So, there’s a significant disproportionality there.

Dr Stavros Nicolaou, Senior Executive: Strategic Trade – Aspen Pharmacare Group

Whilst no one can predict when the fourth wave will take place, it is imminent and makes vaccinations amongst South Africa’s HIV-infected people critical in preventing the mutation and surge of even deadlier variants of COVID-19.

Health experts have warned that if the decline in the number of new infections and death continue, the fourth wave is set to arrive just as soon as the third wave comes to an end.

In anticipation of an imminent fourth wave, government has formulated an epidemiological containment strategy to break the chain of transmission, which requires at least 70% of the adult population to be fully vaccinated by the end of December.

Considering that we will have administered around 19 million doses this week, ramping up our COVID-19 vaccination drives in marginalised communities to ensure that the remaining 9 million South Africans that form part of the desired target is vaccinated will need to be accelerated.

“What we do know is we will have a fourth wave. You can either have a fourth wave that is muted or a fourth wave that is exacerbated… the difference between the two will depend on how many people we vaccinate against the target of 28 million.”

Dr Stavros Nicolaou, Senior Executive: Strategic Trade – Aspen Pharmacare Group

How do we break the psychological barriers of vaccine hesitancy?

The core problem with people not wanting to get vaccinated has a human element, says Nicolaou.

There are four categories of people of South Africans who have not been vaccinated:

  1. Vaccine apathetic: The most predominant group of people who are uninterested and have little time considering vaccination.

  2. Vaccine hesitant: This group of people have received the information about the vaccine but are sitting on the fence because they don’t believe that they are required to take the vaccine, think that it is unsafe or believe that they can survive without taking it.

  3. Anti-vaxxers: The most difficult group to convince that the vaccine is safe and effective and could, possibly believe the conspiracy theories around vaccinations or have religious reasons for not taking it.

  4. People with contraindication: This is the smallest and only group of people that should not be taking the vaccine because constituents of the vaccine might increase the risk of serious adverse reactions due to pre-existing conditions.

Nicolaou believes that a lot of the vaccine hesitancy is coming from fake news around key clinical misrepresentations that suggest that the vaccine is unsafe and that there were shortcuts taken in the registration of vaccines.

In response to these misrepresentations, he says that the vaccines have been proven to be effective as billions of doses have been administered thus far with minuscule reports of vaccine-related deaths.

There have been no shortcuts taken in this instance with the COVID vaccine – what has happened is, because we were in the midst of a crisis, unprecedented in our lifetimes, there were parallel process that were run… because we were facing a public health emergency here, the different regulators including our very own SAPRA in South Africa followed these rolling submissions.

Dr Stavros Nicolaou, Senior Executive: Strategic Trade – Aspen Pharmacare Group

So, you submitted data as it became available, that data got priority evaluation and review and that’s how we were able to register these products as quickly as we did but all the requirements that are usually needed to be met by any pharmaceutical company registering a vaccine or a medicine was followed in this instance as well.”

Dr Stavros Nicolaou, Senior Executive: Strategic Trade – Aspen Pharmacare Group

To contain the spread of the virus, Nicolaou suggests that the controversial topic of mandatory vaccinations needs to be examined and that the focus on individual rights should be reduced following the South African Human Rights Commission’s statement that the requirement of mandatory vaccinations will not be an infringement on human rights.

“We need to take it to the next level… No problem if you choose not to be vaccinated but then, you can’t be allowed into the soccer stadium, you can’t go into lectures unless you fall into that fourth category,” he concludes.

For data-driven insights that match foresight with sustainable possibilities, re-visit our Absa Insights page regularly to listen to thought-provoking conversations with Absa Corporate and Investment Banking sector experts in the Absa Insights podcast series.




* 11 October 2021 2:00 PM
Tags:
Bruce Whitfield
absa insights
absa insights 2021

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