Against a backdrop where myths and misinformation about vaccines against Covid-19 and immunisation programmes more generally are widespread, this manual aims to put public health messaging first. In this manual, we dispel common fictions and fears about the Covid-19 vaccine.

Why this manual?

A proportion of South Africans demonstrate vaccine hesitancy – in other words, uncertainty about whether to take a vaccine when they become available. The UJ-HSRC survey of 10,000 people in South Africa showed that while 52% of people would definitely take the vaccine, there is a large number of people who are unsure about taking a vaccine. 15% of participants don’t know if they would take a vaccine, 6% probably wouldn’t take a vaccine and 12% of people surveyed definitely would not take a vaccine. Participants’ main concerns included potential side effects (25%), and Effectiveness (18%) of the vaccines. Only 7% mentioned concerns relating to conspiracies, and 4% cited religious/occult issues with the vaccine.

While these numbers show an encouraging number of people willing to take the vaccine – or those who could be persuaded if they had more information – the presence of hesitancy and misinformation is still worrying to our immunisation efforts. It is possible to encourage demand for vaccines through vaccine literacy, community training and combating people’s fears, particularly showing the effectiveness of vaccines and giving accurate information about potential side effects.

Vaccine hesitancy in the country is fueled by widespread misinformation and fear-mongering, including by state officials at various levels of government. This misinformation has been spread on social media, mainstream media and in and among communities. A lack of trust in government, as well as some opportunistic quackery, has resulted in a situation where many South Africans may refuse vaccination and therefore jeopardise our attempts to achieve ‘herd’ or population immunity through an immunisation effort and beat Covid-19 once and for all.

Who made this manual?

Compiled by Julia Chaskalson for SECTION27 in partnership with the Covid-19 People’s Coalition Health Working Group and the People’s Vaccine Alliance, this manual is intended to help activists make sense of the science surrounding vaccines against Covid-19. It is written in simple language with clear, factual examples. We hope that this manual proves helpful in communicating public health messaging about Covid-19 and vaccines against the virus in communities across South Africa. Here we aim to provide a useful resource for activists to train their communities and networks.

Who is it for?

For public health messaging to be effective, it needs to be communicated at every level of society. We have designed this manual to assist activists who work with grassroots organisations to support other national campaigns and high level messaging about vaccine literacy.  This manual is written broadly for activists and community members looking to enhance their knowledge about vaccines. More specifically, this manual is designed for activist ‘trainers’ who can run workshops in their communities and support vaccine literacy campaigns. Activists will be training other activists and community members to combat myths and misinformation about vaccines.

This manual is based on scientifically accurate evidence that was up-to-date in February 2021. Updated information will be added periodically as more information becomes available.

Acknowledgements

This Train the Trainer manual on Vaccine Literacy was made possible through a collective effort. Thanks go to the following groups for their inputs, edits, assistance and contributions:

  • People’s Health Movement (PHM-SA)
  • The C19 People’s Coalition Health and Popular Education Working Groups
  • Astrid von Kotze
  • Workers’ World Media Productions (WWMP)
  • Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)
  • Health Justice Initiative