EDITORIAL | If state botches vaccine rollout it will lose its ...

Ideas

EDITORIAL | If state botches vaccine rollout it will lose its chance to win back trust

The rollout is top of the list of obstacles the state needs to overcome to prove it is trustworthy and competent

Editorial

In 2011, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) started a project to test for and treat HIV among the 115,000 people living in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal. Its aim was to reach the UN’s 90-90-90 goals by mid-2020 to improve testing and treatment regimes. Last year, at the Aids conference in Durban, it reported on its progress: it had managed to reach the goals a year ahead of schedule. One of its secrets to success? The project managers actively involved traditional leaders to help educate the community.

The success behind this project came to mind when President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night offered some insight into how the government plans to deal with disinformation about vaccines. “We see a vital role for organised labour, traditional leaders and the religious community in the dissemination of accurate information on vaccines and in ensuring optimal participation in the vaccine programme,” he said. 

Involving traditional and religious leaders in spreading the word is a sensible approach and may make a difference, just as it did with the HIV project in Eshowe. But there is another aspect that complicates matters. A survey carried out by technology company M4Jam among 3,000 people aged between 18 and 64 shows South Africans are largely distrustful of Covid-19 vaccines. Added to that, however, is that they also lack faith in the government’s ability to manage the vaccine rollout...

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