Botswana Guardian

Some Batswana reject Covid vaccine on religious grounds

Covid- 19 vaccine claimed to be ‘ Mark of the Beast’

- Keletso Thobega BG reporter

Vaccine hesitancy continues to be a source of contention for the Government as some members of the public shy away from the COVID- 19 vaccine on religious grounds.

Minister of Health and Wellness Edwin Dikoloti has said the target for government is 64 percent vaccinatio­n by October, while President Masisi recently said they aim to have vaccinated at least 80 percent of the population by the end of the year.

But as the government accelerate­s the deployment of Covid- 19 vaccines, vaccine hesitancy still lurks in the shadows. When updating media on the vaccinatio­n drive for teachers, Minister of Basic Education Fidelis Molao said while a sizeable number of teachers and support staff have already been vaccinated, there is concern over certain quarters that have rejected vaccinatio­n on religious grounds.

But it is not only teachers, but the general populace, who have been suspicious of the fast creation of Covid- 19 vaccines, and doubt their effectiven­ess, leading to general wariness, which according to Molao, is compounded by institutio­nal mistrust, according to research by the African Union Commission and the Africa Centre for Disease Control. Letsile Kaboyakgos­i said he would not be getting vaccinated because of his religious beliefs. He explained that in his understand­ing, this vaccinatio­n is a Mark of the Beast and that those with the jab will “not see the doors of heaven”. He said he has faith that God will protect him. “God has sustained me from last year without the vaccine. If I could live without it for that long, surely I could live with it for much longer. I am anointed by the Holy Spirit and covered by the blood of Jesus. “I don’t have any qualms with other people vaccinatin­g but for me, personally, I don’t want to be vaccinated and it is my Constituti­onal human right to reject the vaccine”. A member of the Bazezuru tribe, Algoth Mbwabe, said their religion does not allow any form of inoculatio­n and vaccinatio­n. He said they “will see if they will get vaccinated,” asserting that he would not speak for everyone:

“Retla bona gore a retla kentiwa. Ga re dumele mo mokentong mme retla bona.” ( We will see if we will get vaccinated). He however noted that every individual’s right should be respected and upheld because the vaccine “is optional and not compulsory”.

Kamogelo Kgatso said the vaccine is for the good of those who want to be “on the safe side” such as herself.

“Taking the vaccine is a choice I made for myself. I did research reading up on different vaccines and its effects. I made my own choice based on informed knowledge; to my understand­ing, vaccines have been proven to prevent deaths”. Earlier this year, Botswana Council of Churches ( BCC) cautioned church leaders to desist from perpetuati­ng falsehoods about Covid- 19 vaccines.

BCC secretary general Reverend Gabriel Tsuaneng said the organisati­on is aware of some church leaders discouragi­ng congregant­s from getting vaccinated. He said BCC “promotes the acceptance of the vaccine as it is a symbol of God’s response to heartfelt prayers”. He added: “When someone says the vaccine has an element of bad omen, they should be able to furnish us with material evidence, in fact, they must be proclaimed as criminals to continuous­ly perpetuate untruthful statements and myths without any justificat­ion because those who are encouragin­g the vaccine are producing evidence of its impact”.

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