Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Do South Africans prefer prayer to vaccines?

Seven out of 10 South Africans (of the 1 600 polled) do not trust the government at all, or have only a little trust in its ability to ensure the safety of Covid-19 vaccines, with close to half believing prayer is more effective than medicine in preventing infection, a new survey by Afrobarometer has revealed.

A team from the pan-African, independent and non-partisan research network that measures public attitudes on economic, political, and social matters in Africa, led by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and Plus 94 Research, interviewed 1600 adult South Africans during May and June, and extrapolated that this distrust could lead to around 54% of respondents not getting the vaccine.

These respondents indicated that they were unlikely or highly unlikely to get themselves inoculated. According to the survey, 47% of respondents believed that prayer was more effective against the coronavirus than vaccines.

Of the remaining 30% of respondents, 2% reported they did not know if they could trust the government with ensuring the safety of the drugs. The other 28% said they somewhat or fully trusted the government in this regard.

The 1 600 respondent sample size “yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-2.5 percentage points at a 95% confidence level,” Afrobarometer said.

“If South Africans distrust the Covid-19 vaccine, this will pose a significant challenge for the government’s mass vaccination programme,” it added.

On its information page on vaccines, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stresses the importance of as many people as possible getting vaccinated, to protect not just themselves, but others as well. 

“Because not everyone can be vaccinated they depend on others being vaccinated to ensure they are also safe from vaccine-preventable diseases,” the UN health agency says.

“Without vaccines, we are at risk of serious illness and disability from diseases like measles, meningitis, pneumonia, tetanus and polio. Many of these diseases can be life-threatening. WHO estimates that childhood vaccines alone save more than four-million lives every year.”

According to the latest vaccine statistics on Thursday morning, South Africa has administered more than seven-million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government is targeting 67% of the population being vaccinated by the end of 2021, which would allow South Africa to achieve herd immunity against the virus.

Department of health data shows that to date, more than 2.3-million South Africans have tested positive for Covid-19 since the first case was reported in March last year. Of these, at least 68 000 have lost their lives due to related health complications. 

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

‘The children cannot cope any more’: Suicide in Calvinia highlights...

How Covid-19 has intensified the physical and emotional burdens placed on children’s shoulders.

Capitec Bank flies high above Viceroy’s arrow

The bank took a knock after being labelled a loan shark by the short seller, but this has not stymied its growth

More top stories

Covid-19: No vaccine booster shots needed yet

Scientists agree it is important to get most of the population vaccinated before giving booster jabs

The convenient myth of an Africa spared from Covid-19

There are few, if any, studies to support Pfizer chief executive’s assertion that the global south would be more vaccine-hesitant than the north

Council wants Hawks, SIU probe into BAT’s Zimbabwe scandal

The cigarette maker has been accused of giving up to $500 000 in bribes and spying on competitors

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…