News / Own Your Life

Vhahangwele Nemakonde
Digital Journalist
4 minute read
22 Oct 2021
9:58 pm

Lack of community education the source of vaccine hesitancy – Contralesa

Vhahangwele Nemakonde

He says the government should call community meetings through the traditional councils, where people will get a chance to ask the health officials questions about side effects.

Picture for illustration: Bega

Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) chairperson in Gauteng Prince Manene Tabane has called on the government to take Covid-19 vaccine education to the communities through the traditional councils.

“Vaccines are created to save lives. From the historical point of view, since the inception of the vaccines, they’ve been there to save lives against diseases that are killing people. This one is not different from those vaccines, I guess the purpose is that people must be saved from coronavirus,” he said.

However, the country is struggling to reach herd immunity due to vaccine hesitancy and according to Tabane, this is where traditional councils come in.

Tabane says the government should be open about the side effects of the vaccines as shared by people on social media and tell people how to deal with them.

“There is something that the government is not doing right, they are just pushing for the numbers to be vaccinated and talk less about the side effects. I’m not talking about the education of the side effects you get when you go to the clinic where you’re told after taking the injection you must relax for 15 minutes, then if there is a problem they will assist you,” he said.

“What is needed here is community education around the vaccines. People should not get side effects that are shocking only after they have vaccinated and yet they’ve never been told about them. People must be told that these are the possible side effects and how to deal with them and not get first-hand experience from them.

“Lack of community education is the source of hesitancy. The government has got a capability of going to communities. Have you seen the strategies and energy that the government is using when it’s time for elections? They go all out to houses they have never visited before, they will get to that house. They should use the same energy and strategies because for as long as the government is not doing community education, the hesitancy will always be there.”

He says the government should call community meetings through the traditional councils, where people will get a chance to ask the health officials questions about side effects.

“When they engage with communities, then people will get to know why they should vaccinate. The government is failing to take the centre stage around social media platforms, that’s where we get the information which is contrary to the information that the government is telling us. There are platforms where people are telling us horrible stories about people who have vaccinated, the government should rise above that and tell people on social media too, but the more effective method is to go to the communities directly.”

He also criticised the government’s hesitancy to consider traditional medicine, which is how other people have treated their symptoms. He says it is through community meetings where they will explain their hesitancy to consider traditional medicine.

“For as long as the government sidelines traditional medicine or involvement of traditional healers, bring them into the main because majority of us still believe that we can protect ourselves against this virus. By going to the communities we can ask them why they don’t involve traditional medicine.”

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), it is common to experience mild to moderate side effects after vaccinating.

“This is because your immune system is instructing your body to react in certain ways: it increases blood flow so more immune cells can circulate, and it raises your body temperature in order to kill the virus,” it said.

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The most common side effects after vaccination include:

  • Pain, swelling, or redness where the vaccine was injected
  • Mild fever
  • Chills
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches

The less common side effects include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face and throat
  • A fast heartbeat
  • A bad rash all over your body
  • Dizziness and weakness

“These serious side effects from vaccines are extremely rare. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to be monitored for 15 minutes after vaccination, and those with a history of other allergies for 30 minutes, so they can be monitored and treated immediately if they have a reaction.”