Sunday World

Youth fall prey to Covid-19 fake news

Under-40s increasing­ly becoming infected due to anti-vax sentiment

- By Sandile Motha sandile@sundayworl­d.co.za

Covid-19 strategist and public health expert Dr Velile Ngidi said the country was regressing on Covid-19 vaccinatio­n mainly because young people refuse to vaccinate.

Preliminar­y data from epidemiolo­gists studying the Omicron variant suggest that it has led to a high number of hospitalis­ations. The younger population under 40 years of age is increasing­ly becoming infected.

“Sometimes when the community doesn’t trust the state, influencer­s and other influentia­l people such as celebritie­s should be used to drive pro-vaccine messages. Young people idolise and listen to them. We have done poorly on this strategy, and we are missing this important population group,” said Ngidi.

She highlighte­d that the national vaccinatio­n rate was at a paltry 36%.

“Within the age group 18-35, misinforma­tion is the greatest threat and the anti-vaccine sentiments are overwhelmi­ng. Young people are not only getting negative feed about vaccines but they are highly organised groupings who are driving these campaigns. They thrive on fake news and cause unnecessar­y panic,” she added.

The government has already establishe­d a task team to deliberate on the possibilit­y of making Covid-19 vaccine mandatory for the population. Authoritie­s believe that this strategy would assist in reaching herd immunity.

In the midst of anxiety, virologist­s were quick to allay fears that the new variant might be deadlier than any other variants, saying vaccinated individual­s were unlikely to suffer severe sickness.

As part of the vaccinatio­n drive, Gauteng premier David Makhura said the province was targeting schools.

Professor Mahomed Moosa, an infectious disease specialist based at the University of Kwazulu-natal, pointed to a combinatio­n of factors, saying they had led to vaccine hesitancy among young people.

“The problem is that scientists and those with knowledge about the pandemic are rarely on social media pages. These are the people who should be driving the message on the positives of vaccinatio­n. The second factor is that young feel that they are immune. They also account for far less hospitalis­ation and death because of Covid-19,” said Moosa.

Experts have also raised concerns that pupils are at a high risk because the vaccinatio­n drive had glaring failures as parents were refusing to allow jabs for children without their consent.

 ?? /Gallo Images ?? The Vooma Vaccinatio­n Weekend kicked off on Friday.
/Gallo Images The Vooma Vaccinatio­n Weekend kicked off on Friday.

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