South Africa’s vaccine headache switches from supply to demand

South Africa’s biggest challenge to meeting a target of vaccinating two-thirds of the adult population against Covid-19 has shifted from a shortage of supply to a lack of demand.

“We are sitting in a situation where we don’t have a vaccine constraint, at least for the next two months,” Nicholas Crisp, deputy director-general in the department of health, said in an online briefing on Friday. “Now we need vaccine demand.”

Africa’s most industrialized nation opened its rollout of Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson doses to those between 35 and 49 years old last month, yet interest from that age group has not been sustained, Crisp said.

An improvement has been seen in the over-60s, he said, and the number of people fully vaccinated is set to pass four million, out of an adult population of about 40 million.

Vaccine hesitancy or outright opposition has been a barrier to ending the coronavirus pandemic all over the world, though may be a particular problem in South Africa.

A survey found last month that about 54% of nationals say they are unlikely to get a Covid-19 vaccine and almost half say they believe prayer provides more protection than the shots.

One issue of concern in South Africa is a particular reluctance to be vaccinated among men, Crisp said. Almost 60% of those to have received a dose to date have been women.

“This is not good,” Crisp said. “It means that men are going to end up very sick and in hospital and we don’t want that to happen just prior to Christmas.”


Read: 4 taxes that could fund South Africa’s NHI – including 20% VAT

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South Africa’s vaccine headache switches from supply to demand