Namibian vaccine fear rife
02 June 2021 | Local News
A majority of Namibians believe prayer trumps the effectiveness of vaccines, a new survey has found.
According to the latest Afrobarometer results for Namibia, 63% of Namibians believe prayer is a better prevention against infection than any vaccine. Half of Namibians said they are unlikely to get vaccinated due to their deep-rooted distrust of the vaccine. Two-thirds of the respondents said they do not trust the safety of vaccines offered by government, and the majority, 77%, said they are worried that vaccine producers “will try to test them on ordinary Namibians, even if they have not been proven to be safe.”
Their vaccine distrust contrasts with further findings in the survey, where a majority of Namibians said they are happy with wearing masks and believe masks are an effective mechanism against the spread of Covid-19.
The majority of 1 200 respondents interviewed between December and February this year also said lockdowns and curfews were warranted measures by government, though they were too strict and too long.
The latest Namibian Afrobarometer, launched on Wednesday, underlines the findings that there is an urgent need for faith-based organisations to promote the safety of vaccines to help Namibia’s vaccine uptake.
“This cannot be a government only campaign. I think it's a trust issue. I do not think faith-based organisations are the cause [of vaccine fear and scepticism], but I do think they have a huge role to play. You can pray and get vaccinated,” Christie Keulder of Survey Warehouse, the research company that conducted the Afrobarometer, said.
“There is a need for them to get involved in driving people to vaccines,” he said, pointing to the survey results that show the widespread distrust of government’s vaccine information campaign and implementation.
By Tuesday this week, 3 999 active cases were recorded, and Namibia recorded its highest number of Covid-19 deaths - 24 - in one day.
Just under 70 000 Namibians have received their first vaccine shot to date.
The survey further found that Namibians take the pandemic seriously, with the majority worrying about infections in their family and friend circles. Most also agreed that the pandemic is bad for their own and the country’s current and long-term financial wellbeing.
Keulder said the survey findings survey could be linked in part to the declining trust in government and political parties in Namibia and the void created by the lack of public trust and the deluge of vaccine misinformation.
“I think it’s a trust issue. Masks prevent infection. It’s a simple concept, and low cost. People trust masks but don’t trust vaccines, and both are a method of curtailing Covid-19.”
He pointed out that masks are viewed as “harmless”, while people believe vaccines can have harmful physical or other consequences.
The findings also indicate that the number of Namibians who have never had to go without essentials such as cash, food, water, cooking oil, and medical care has dropped to 1999 poverty indicators, but not necessarily as a result of the pandemic.
“We are sliding back to 1999 levels,” Keulder said, explaining that more people have had to do without one or all of these essentials are increasing.
He stressed that the backwards slide already started in 2014.
During the pandemic in fact, conditions could have temporarily improved, he said.
“People received additional water, hospitals were put up, they received cash. They managed to import resources into their households during this period, which under normal circumstances maybe they would not have had access to.”
Nevertheless, since the pandemic started, 23% of respondents said they had to do without cash “many times”; 17% said only once, and 29% “several times.”
Nine percent of respondents said they did not have food many times, 27% said several times, and 26% said only once.
On government trust, almost three-quarters of Namibians said they relied on informal networks for support received during the pandemic, and half said they received the once-off cash payment from government.
A majority, two-thirds, criticised government assistance, saying it was done unfairly.
And, although the majority of respondents were pleased with government efforts to keep the public informed during the pandemic, managing the pandemic response, providing water and sanitation, health services and pandemic relief, 70% were unhappy with government’s efforts to fight corruption, and 61% said government did too little to ensure food security during the pandemic.
This could indicate that the decline in trust between citizens and political parties “continues to grow”, Keulder said.
He said despite gratitude for government interventions and actions, the pandemic did not drive people “back into the arms of government. People are thankful for what they got, but they remain critical.”
Among the key findings was that Namibians primarily relied on the internet and social media for information and news about the pandemic, and newspapers were the least popular media resource.