Covid-19 survivor – ‘The vaccine is our one chance to make it out of this pandemic’

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Medical doctor preparing a Covid-19 vaccine shot .
Medical doctor preparing a Covid-19 vaccine shot .
Getty Images/Luis Alvarez

As the country battles with the second wave of Covid-19, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize recently announced the country had acquired some vaccines and outlined a rollout strategy.

“We are targeting a minimum of 67% of the population to achieve herd immunity and the approach will be a phased rollout of the vaccine beginning with the most vulnerable in our population,” the minister said in an address.

The first priority is healthcare workers, who will be followed by the elderly and those with comorbidities.

Since the news broke, many South Africans have come out in support of a vaccine and said they will happily get in line to receive the jab.  However, there are always the doubters, the conspiracy theorists, who are holding onto the myths surrounding the vaccine and spreading false information.

Read more | Vaccines, funerals and lockdown – SA doctor based in UK weighs in on Covid-19 response

Drum speaks to Lebohang Booi (23), a student who contracted the virus in December. Luckily, she's made a full recovery but her experience has left her in no doubt  she will have the vaccine when it becomes available.

"I first got symptoms after a trip I took to Cape Town, as I was travelling from varsity in the Free State," she tells Drum. "I took all the necessary precautions during the trip.

"But everything happened so quickly. When I got back to Bloemfontein, I took a nap and when I woke up, everything felt terrible. 

"I was scared and alone and away from family. I couldn't breathe, I felt really, really tired, I had no appetite, and at some point I couldn't even taste water. 

"It felt like I was experiencing all the symptoms all at once," she says. 

Lebohang says she followed the advice of her family and she went to the doctor. Her test confirmed she was positive.

"Hearing about it is scary, but going through it is another thing. When I got my results I was scared but I just convinced myself that if I took my medication, stayed home and isolated, I'd eventually get better and recover.

"I'm young, a student who's finally trying to make something of herself, and I was afraid I'd lose my life to this virus.

"To think that it reached me, even though I was so strict about my movements, was a real shock and it became much more real than I thought it would.

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"In terms of the vaccination, I definitely support it. I don't think this is the time for people to politicise it. We need this vaccine. Covid-19 is such a destructive virus, it spreads so quickly and it's wiping out entire families.

"The vaccination is a start, but it's not going to be effective if people don't play their part. I think people are using false information as a reason to defy the law and peddle other information. It's even scarier when heads of states start pushing this agenda.

"I don't want people to first experience the pain of Covid-19 to be able to understand the nature of it, but unfortunately that's how society is."  

Lebohang thinks those spreading the misinformation are people who haven't been affected by it, and they see the virus as something far removed from them. 

"I don't believe anyone is immune to this virus. I think people are choosing to believe the conspiracies and defy the regulations. As someone who once thought they might not survive this virus, it's very frustrating," she says.

"This pandemic is being taken for granted by many people, even though so many have died from it and we can see the strain it's putting on our healthcare workers. 

"As an urban and regional planning student, the pandemic has changed our curriculum. It has changed our ideas of how a city should be planned. This is just one thing that shows this virus is real, with real effects on people.  

"I am young person, and I know I will probably be among the last to receive it, but I believe the vaccine is our one chance to make it out of this pandemic so I will line up to receive it," she says. 

Many South African stick to their beliefs that there's a larger conspiracy at play surrounding the vaccine, so there's a lot of work is being done by virologists to dispel some of the myths.

The government has also initiated a social media campaign to bust some of the most common conspiracies  see examples below.

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