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South Africans quick to turn sour on Covid vaccines


Social media survey reveals country's rapid drop in positive attitudes to jabs

South Africans’ attitudes towards Covid-19 vaccines were quick to sour after they were made widely available in the country, a study has found.

The study, carried out by researchers from South Africa and New Zealand, discovered that although positive attitudes towards Covid-19 vaccines were slipping in all but one of 10 countries studied, South Africa saw the most rapid decline.

The researchers based at the University of Johannesburg and Auckland University of Technology used machine learning to track sentiments towards vaccines expressed on social media from February to October this year. The study began a few weeks before South Africa rolled out vaccines to the general population.

In addition to South Africa and New Zealand, the researchers looked at Australia, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. Only Belgium showed an increase in vaccine positivity in the time studied. South Africa’s “positivity score” fell 13 per cent over the survey period.

The trend was surprising, the authors write, as they expected vaccine hesitancy to decrease as the vaccine rollout gained momentum.

South Africans’ negativity was found to stem not predominantly from fake news and fear, but from criticism of the roll-out process and of corruption.

South Africa has administered 21.7 million vaccine doses, with 11.8m people fully vaccinated.