South Africa COVID vaccine hesitancy due to side-effect fears- survey

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A healthcare worker administers the Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a man, amidst the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, in Johannesburg

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Fears over the possible side effects and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines have been the main drivers of hesitancy among thousands of South Africans, a government-backed online survey showed on Thursday.

South Africa, where around half of its 40 million adults have had at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, has been the worst hit by the pandemic across Africa, in terms of confirmed infections and deaths.

It has, like many countries in Africa and on other continents, struggled to convince sceptics to get vaccinated.

Among the 18-34 age group, hesitancy was highest, at 39%, the survey taken in October and November found, with the white population the most likely race group to eschew the vaccine, at 48% of respondents.

Conducted by the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council, the fifth round of the survey which started two years ago involved 6,633 participants.

"What this analysis has demonstrated is that the majority of those that express hesitation about taking the vaccine are not anti-science, but are expressing rational and legitimate doubts," a presentation on the survey's findings said.

"This suggests that public health messaging needs to continue to provide information that may reassure this group about side-effects and the effectiveness of the vaccine."

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Alexander Winning and Bernadette Baum)

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