While more than 90% of Namibian media practitioners have encouraged the public to get vaccinated against Covid-19, only 40% of them have been inoculated against the deadliest pandemic the world has seen in a century.
This is according to a recent survey among local media practitioners, conducted by New Era.
Of the respondents, 47% say health conditions prevent them from taking the vaccine, while 43% do not trust the vaccine and 21% say they have not had time.
The survey also showed that of those vaccinated, more than three quarters (76%) have been fully vaccinated with a second dose.
The majority of survey respondents (45%) fall in the 25 to 34 year age group and 75% of respondents are female.
“Vaccination is a choice”, “it’s against the constitution” and “vaccines should not be forced down people’s throats” were some of the comments received from the online survey that aimed to gauge the level of vaccination compliance in the local media fraternity, many of whom have been reporting on the frontlines of the devastating pandemic since its emergence in the country early last year.
The survey showed that while the majority of local media practitioners urge others to get protected against Covid-19 and its emerging variants, they are slow in getting what could be a life-saving jab.
“Choosing to get vaccinated should be a personal choice, based on better understanding and clarity regarding vaccines. Until such a point where those refusing can be well convinced and informed about the vaccine, it wouldn’t be right to force it upon anyone who doesn’t believe in it,” said one respondent, showing a clear and still widespread distrust of the global vaccine programme.
The government’s latest statistics on the Covid-19 vaccine show that so far, 211 118 Namibians have received the first dose of the available Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccinations, while 111 523 have received their second doses.
Namibia’s vaccination programme started on 19 March 2021 after China donated 100 000 Sinopharm doses and India 30 000 AstraZeneca doses.
However, the programme stuttered in July when purchased doses did not arrive on time.
However, the programme is again in full swing but vaccine hesitancy, fuelled by misinformation and conspiracy theories, has seen the government’s goal of inoculating 60% of the population seem a distant dream.
The survey was conducted during August, using an online survey application, and also showed that some 22% of respondents feel access to certain services can be denied if one is not vaccinated.
Fifty-one journalists have completed the survey.
The widely held view (77%) was that access or service may not be denied for the unvaccinated.
“We should keep encouraging people to get vaccinated; however, we should not discriminate against any person. Their rights are protected in the law, but everyone should get vaccinated,” another respondent commented.
“They should get the vaccine at their own will... it’s a new thing and I think it will be fair if we all get a chance to digest before deciding,” said another respondent.
“The vaccine should not be used as a right of access – be it to public places or a requirement for a job. It’s voluntary, meaning people have the right to choose and should they choose – be it due to health issues or personal reasons, their choice needs to be respected and denying them access is a violation of that choice. Equally, there are reports (Europe and other countries) of the vaccine causing most of the surge in deaths, so obviously, people would be sceptical about it – so, at the end of the day, it should be left as a choice and not be forced upon,” another respondent commented.
Said one respondent: “This pandemic is quite new to all of us and we are learning as we go. So, we should be mindful that the vaccine is a trial and error situation and can or can’t work for some people. Educating and creating robust positive awareness on the importance of vaccination should be encouraged to ensure it is the responsible thing to do – and it is still everyone’s right”.
“More needs to be done” and “the rollout has been particularly good in my area” were some of the comments when New Era also asked the media to sum up their take on the national vaccination programme.
Said a respondent: “Given the current circumstances, the rollout has been excellent as far as accessing of the vaccine in the most remote areas is concerned. It is accessible to everybody. However, government can do better in terms of strengthening the message to convince more people to get vaccinated. There are still a lot of people who are sceptical about getting vaccinated, notably in the informal settlements and rural areas. Some people are also misinformed. I don’t think the ministry is doing enough to effectively get the message across”.
Other respondents brought up the lack of awareness of getting vaccinated, specifically amongst the youth, in order for the country to reach herd immunity.
“I still feel there isn’t enough awareness on the vaccine. We are still hearing people sharing misinformed views on the vaccine, which indicates that the education about the programme is not known to a lot of people. Besides that, there isn’t enough talk about the hesitancy by some people. If more discussions are held, there might be a possibility to change people’s minds about their stance on vaccination,” read another comment.