South Africa is currently facing a new wave of infections related to the much higher transmissibility of the omicron COVID variant and its sub-variants. The most recent spike has had similar characteristics as the fourth wave in January 2022: increases in infections have not been accompanied by similar increases spikes in hospitalisations and deaths.
These changes present a challenge to policy makers trying to improve vaccine take-up, particularly in vulnerable groups. People more vulnerable to severe illness with COVID include the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
South Africa’s government set a target of getting 67% of the population vaccinated by the end of 2021. But rates have fallen far short of this. As of 22 May 2022 only 31.4% of the population had been vaccinated.
Understanding the depth of vaccine hesitancy, and the drivers behind the lack of take-up is critical to preventing further deaths, infections, and continuing harm to the economy. Vaccine take-up is particularly crucial for the country because of the HIV prevalence rate of 13% as well as the fact that it has the highest rates link of TB and TB/HIV incidence in the world. Both are known correlates of COVID-19 mortality.