A study led by Health Specialist at the Ministry Of Health and Wellness Dr. Lebapotswe Tlale has revealed that the Kgalagadi region has the lowest rate and risk perception towards the COVID-19 vaccine in Botswana.
The study which was published on 4th February 2022 shows that generally, Greater Phikwe zone has both the largest acceptance rate and percentage of participants indicating that the vaccine is safe while Kgalagadi zone has the smallest of both.
“This therefore means that people in the Kgalagadi zone should be educated about the vaccine safety and be encouraged to up the vaccine when it is available,” the study says.
Acceptance rate for Boteti region was 75.1%, Greater Gaborone 72.2%, Greater Francistown 75.3, Maun, 75.2, Chobe 65.5%, Gantsi 69% and Greater Palapye 73.9%
According to the study, three thousand, six hundred and eighty nine (3689) out of five thousand and twenty seven (5027) participants were willing to take the vaccine resulting in the acceptance rate of the COVID-19 vaccine in Botswana.
The study says while there is a high acceptance rate for the COVID-19 vaccine and a low risk perception in Botswana, in order to achieve a high vaccine coverage and ensure a successful vaccination process, there is need to target populations with high vaccine hesitancy rates.
The study says participants whose religious beliefs did not hinder vaccination were more likely to take the vaccine than those whose religious beliefs hinder vaccination.
It says about half (49%) of the participants who said their religious and cultural beliefs hinder vaccine uptake were willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally the majority (77.6%) of those who had no hindrances from religious and cultural beliefs, were willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The odds of willing to receive COVID-19 vaccine are lower for those who indicated that religion or cultural beliefs hinder vaccine uptake compared those who did not (OR = 0.3, 95% CI: 0.2, 0.3),” says the study.
It says about 51% of participants who trusted other traditional and religious methods over the vaccine were willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Also, we note that the odds of accepting vaccine are low for those who trust other traditional and religious methods over the vaccine,” the authors of the study said.
The survey revealed that socio-demographic factors have an impact on the acceptance rate of the COVID-19 vaccine in Botswana.
“The elderly (55 years and above) had the highest vaccine acceptance rate and this could be associated with the conception that the group pay attention to news through government sources, while the younger groups frequently use social media and internet where there is an array of unverified information and also the knowledge that this population has a higher risk of severe disease,” says the study.
Contrarily, the study says, a survey in China showed that middle-aged people (30–49) showed more willingness to take the vaccine than other age groups. According to the authors for the Chinese survey, factors that affected willingness to be vaccinated included paying close attention to the latest news of the vaccine, among other factors.
Authors for the Botswana survey indicated that, “In our study, female participants and Christians were more likely to accept COVID-19 vaccination than the rest of the adult population. Contrary, in China, Japan and Uganda, researchers found that male gender was a significant contributing factor for high vaccine acceptance.”
The survey found that participants who have at least a primary school qualification were more likely to accept the vaccine compared to their counterparts. A Japanese study revealed that the main predictor for vaccine hesitancy is fear of the risk for side-effects.
“Therefore, it is critical to prioritize educational messages and reassure those who are willing to get vaccinated as well as those who display unwillingness in order to make progress towards herd immunity,” the authors for Botswana study said.
The authors found that 96 percent of those willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine indicated that they would continue wearing masks and social distance after vaccination.
“ This is quite high and very important for COVID-19 prevention because the vaccine does not offer absolute protection against COVID-19. Also half of those who stated that their religion and culture hinder vaccine uptake were willing to receive the covid-19 vaccine,” the study says.
The authors said this is very important for health educators as it highlights that it is possible to strengthen public health education, community mobilization and advocacy for behaviour change towards cultural and religious beliefs and their impact on health outcomes.