Wednesday, January 19

Why you should get vaccinated

SIKI PETERS: AME (African Media Entertainment), which is the holding company for many media companies, including Moneyweb, has partnered with the Department of Health to try to encourage more South Africans to get vaccinated. David Harrison, who is part of the Vaccination Demand Task Force at the Department of Health, is joining the SAfm Market Update right now to talk more about why you should get vaccinated.


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David, thank you very much for your time. Just tell us about how the Department of Health is handling vaccine vacillation and some of the negative feedback you are getting about the Covid-19 vaccine.

DAVID HARRISON: Well thank you so much and thank you so much for inviting me to the program and for AME and Caxton’s commitment to partnering with the department. You know, to report that we do not have the degree of rigid resistance to vaccination that we have in many other countries, in the United States and some countries in Europe, we are up to a third or even half of the people who will not. get vaccinated.

When we think about the question about vaccines in South Africa, I think it’s helpful for us to think that based on a series of surveys, we know that about three out of six people are likely to come forward only if we give them the correct information and make sure that sites are open near them. One in six is ​​resistant to vaccination and it will take time to convince them. Another two out of six are people on the fence. They are the undecided voters, and we really believe that this is where we should invest most of our efforts to get them to cross the line. We have stepped up that effort over the past month.

I was hired to lead the Demand Acceleration Task Force and I think the most important thing we can do is ensure a constant flow of truthful and objective information, both because that eliminates much of the anxiety that makes people mistrustful or outspoken. to conspiracy theories, and because it provides them with the basic information they need to get vaccinated.

So we have multiple teams across the country, both on the ground and listening on social media, doing what we call social listening, listening to people’s anxieties, uncovering myths, and we’ll use the information we collect to shape our audience. . communication in partnership with GCIS (the Government Information and Communication System) and many, many other partners from civil society, trade unions and business.

SIKI PETERS: You’re right, because there is a lot of fake news that has contributed to a certain degree of hesitancy to go get the jab. But how do you make sure the message gets through? Because I think that among the ideas that have been put on the table is making sure that communication is also done in languages ​​that people understand. Have you taken the message so far to adapt it to people’s understanding?

DAVID HARRISON: Yes. To give you an idea, and it has been a great partnership with the Pepkor group of companies, we have managed to distribute 10 million brochures in the 11 languages ​​throughout the country through the Department of Health, and another 10 million through Pep Stores and Shoe City and Ackermans. We have improved communication in all 11 languages ​​and radio stations. It certainly seeks to continue building that type of labor relationship.

The bottom line is that ultimately people will go and get vaccinated if their neighbor has been vaccinated or if they hear it from someone they trust.

Frankly, I think we have talked too much at the national level and we have relied too much on simply the political leadership to speak. Much of our focus over the last month has been to really drive communication in communities and use the networks that people trust, to utilize faith-based leadership, leadership from civil society, unions, and the industry. local business. Those are the main points of contact and the main points of intersection with people in a way that cannot be achieved simply through the national media.

So that’s really our focus for the next several months, and the use of local radio, the use of community newspapers is a fundamental part of that strategy.

SIKI PETERS: David, tell us about some of the guidelines when it comes to vaccinating in the workplace.

DAVID HARRISON: Well, for workplace vaccination to occur, the occupational health site must be officially registered with the Department of Health. The government has worked closely with the business sector to try to expand the number of occupational health services through the workplace.

The reality is that we have not had as many job sites as we would have hoped. We now have about 120 job sites. But I think the encouraging thing now is that we are starting to see that many companies say that they are willing to vaccinate not only their employees, but also the people of the surrounding communities. And here the mining companies are at the forefront.

This is really cool. Could it really be instrumental in an area like Boitumelo? …… 5: 53 Platinum, where at the moment we still have little acceptance. We still have a million unvaccinated people in that district alone. This is a fantastic opportunity based on the commitment of these mining companies to go out into the surrounding communities, connect with the local workforce and with the local Health Department and try to solve this challenge in a place like Boitumelo. […… ?].

SIKI PETERS: We have also seen one or two companies announcing that vaccinations will be mandatory for their staff. What does the national government think about this and the possible economic implications of such a move?

DAVID HARRISON: The government has made it very clear that from a public point of view, from a government point of view, mandatory vaccination will not be used to exclude people from any public service. That is clear, but they also say that if companies want to introduce mandatory vaccines and require their staff, for example, to have mandatory vaccines, they accept it.

I understand that. I think if you have companies that are customer-oriented, that are really serious about improving the overall wellness of your workplace, it makes absolutely sense for everyone to be vaccinated. Of course, we have a large informal sector, we have high unemployment rates, so that kind of policy alone is unlikely to affect viruses …… 7:28? dynamic.

But I think it sends a strong signal to everyone in South Africa that Covid vaccination must become a routine part of life because it is economic, social and family-friendly.

SIKI PETERS: I agree with you. But then I think we also need to be a little sensitive to those who, for their own reasons, are still sitting on the fence when it comes to vaccinations, and the members who could be part of the unions, and the possible backlash that we might see. . there as a result of the mandatory vaccination by companies. Has the government thought about this and thought about what the possible answer might be?

DAVID HARRISON: Again, to be clear, the government is not promoting mandatory vaccination. It is certainly understandable that companies choose to do that. I fully agree that this will not be the primary way to boost demand, and we must be careful not to generate a negative reaction. Regarding the unions, we have taken note of Amcu’s concerns. But I have to say that, in general, in our commitment to unions, we are working very closely with unions through union activists.

We have received a lot of support to support the national vaccination program, and I believe that in the next two weeks we will see a strengthened statement, a clarity of emerging leadership, not only from the unions, but from civil society. and the business sector as well, in a way we haven’t seen before.

SIKI PETERS: David, as we move towards the end of the year, just tell us about the latest vaccination strategy for South Africa. What is the status there?

DAVID HARRISON: At this time, about 30% of the adult population has received at least one dose. We don’t know when the fourth wave will arrive, but it will probably be, unfortunately, around Christmas time as we enter the new year. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that we vaccinate another 16 million people who have not yet come forward, so that we achieve coverage of around 70% in the adult population before the end of the year.

If we do that, we would probably avoid about 20,000 deaths, so that’s what we have to prepare to do. We need to make sure we keep expanding access. We now have around 3,000 sites in both the public and private sectors. We have to boost demand. Starting next weekend there will be an accelerated commitment, a political commitment promoted by the president to boost public demand, and we hope to maintain it before the end of the year.

We need to make sure that 250,000 people, that is, a quarter of a million people, who have not been vaccinated before, present every working day from now until the end of the year for vaccination. Those are the kinds of numbers that we are going to require if we want to make sure that we don’t have the same kinds of situations that we had in the second and third waves.

SIKI PETERS: And tomorrow is a holiday. Just tell us about the open doors for those who want to take a hit tomorrow and throughout this long weekend.

DAVID HARRISON: There are sites that are open on weekends and holidays: public and private sites. Next weekend we will see the commitment of all public and private sites to remain open throughout Saturday so that we can begin to accelerate vaccination during the weekends. We know from the sites that are open on weekends that people come there. So starting to make sure we make this a six-day project and not a five-day-a-week project is crucial if we’re going to achieve our goals.

SIKI PETERS: Well. David, thank you so much for joining us and debunking some of those myths and misperceptions about the Covid-19 vaccine. That was David Harrison, the leader of the Health Department’s Immunization Demand Task Force.

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