Medical Student Addresses Vaccine Hesitancy Amongst Educators
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) identified vaccine hesitancy as a challenge amongst educators during their vaccine roll-out programme. In order to support the project and encourage educators to take the vaccine, third-year UKZN Medical student, Mr Mohamed Hoosen Suleman, was invited to address a group of 45 teachers from the south of Durban.
DBE spokesperson, Mr Elijah Mhlanga, explained to educators why vaccination is important, and encouraged them and support staff to choose to vaccinate. The DBE programme is currently being rolled out nationally using the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Suleman’s presentation titled, The need for vaccines, now more than ever, unpacked the necessity of vaccination given the emergence of new variants of COVID-19. His presentation traced the course of the pandemic and how far we have come in dealing with COVID-19 at a global and local scale. He emphasised that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any risks: ‘Adverse events of blood clotting such as cerebral venous thrombosis and thrombocytopenia and heart inflammation such as pericarditis and myocarditis are statistically insignificant and should not deter people from accepting the vaccine.’
Suleman, who is also a UKZN summa cum laude Pharmacy graduate, outlined the latest information available on COVID-19 vaccines and the critical need to combat fake news and misinformation. He encouraged the audience to get their information from official and verified sources.
‘My presentation was well received with many asking questions and seeking more information on different aspects of COVID-19 vaccines. Providing and explaining the facts and figures around the safety and efficacy of vaccines is fundamental in advocating for vaccine acceptance. Healthcare professionals shoulder the responsibility to address challenges as and when they arise. Vaccine hesitancy ought to be given the necessary attention as it poses a threat to our efforts to end the pandemic,’ said Suleman.
He added that clear and effective communication regarding COVID-19 vaccines is a key public health priority: ‘Providing evidence-based information and ensuring transparency will instil confidence in the public. Our public health response is centred around the need to ensure disease prevention and save lives. Working together, we can overcome COVID-19.’
Words: MaryAnn Francis