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26 January 2021

Survey shows that two-thirds of adults are willing to take the Covid-19 vaccine

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

For more information regarding details of the survey please download the document below:

Today the Centre for Social Change (CSC), University of Johannesburg (UJ) in partnership with the Developmental, Capable and Ethical State (DCES) research division of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) release a research briefing on the public’s willingness to take a Covid-19 vaccine and reasons for their decision. Findings show that:

•    67% of adults would definitely or probably take a vaccine if it was available.
•    18% of adults would definitely or probably not take a vaccine.
•    15% of adults did not know.

These findings come from the latest round of the UJ/HSRC Covid-19 Democracy Survey, undertaken between 29 December 2020 and 6 January 2021. It was conducted online using social media adverts to direct potential participants to the survey and #datafree through biNu’s Moya Messenger app. It was completed by 10,618 participants. Findings were weighted by race, education and age, and are broadly representative of the population at large. The questionnaire was available in the country’s six most widely spoken languages.

The briefing demonstrates that race, education and age play a role in shaping vaccine acceptance.

•    69% of Black African adults would definitely or probably take the vaccine (that is, ‘acceptance’), compared with 55% of white adults.
•    Acceptance among adults with less than matric-level education was 72%, compared with 59% for those with tertiary education.
•    Acceptance was 63% among adults aged 18-24, and 74% for those aged 55 and older.
Politics is also important.
•    In terms of voting intention, acceptance was as follows. ANC: 78%, DA: 65%, EFF: 62%, other parties: 67%. Among those who did not intend to vote, acceptance was much lower, only 48%.
•    Among those who thought the President was doing a good or very good job in handling the Covid-19 outbreak, acceptance was 73%, but among those who thought he was doing a bad or very bad job, it was only 36%.

People were also asked: ‘please explain your answer’. Approximately 6000 respondents provided responses to this open-ended question. Analysis is based on coding a random sample of 1,800 responses. The main findings are these:

•    Among acceptances, most people spoke about protecting themselves or others, and often both.
•    The most commonly cited reasons for non-acceptance (which included the ‘don’t knows as well as those who said they would definitely or probably not take the vaccine), the most commonly cited justifications were about effectiveness, side effects and uncertainty about testing.  Many people said they needed more information. Only 10% made reference to conspiracy theories.

Professor Narnia Bohler-Muller from the HSRC said: ‘Our analysis shows that vaccine hesitancy comes down to a range of legitimate concerns about a vaccine developed and rolled-out in record time, as well as some distrust in the government and corporations. We need a vaccine literacy campaign that provides factual information that will sway the waverers.’

Professor Kate Alexander from UJ said: ‘It is excellent news that such a large and representative survey shows that 67% now want to take the vaccine. The biggest challenge is to make sure that the majority get what they want.’

For more information contact

Prof. Narnia Bohler-Muller. Division Executive, Developmental, Capable and Ethical State division, HSRC
066 085 0459/

Prof. Kate Alexander, South African Research Chair in Social Change, University of Johannesburg 082 332 8802/  

Prof. Carin Runciman, Director, Centre for Social Change, University of Johannesburg
073 953 4396/

Dr Ben Roberts, Coordinator: South African Social Attitudes Survey and Chief Research Specialist: Developmental, Capable and Ethical State division, HSRC
084 523 0374/

Dr Martin Bekker, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Social Change, 082 828 1660/