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South Africans urged to stop spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccine

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President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his concerns about the continued spreading of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

“There is still a lot of misinformation being circulated about the COVID-19 vaccine. False stories are being spread on WhatsApp groups, on social media, and by word of mouth about the COVID-19 vaccine, claiming that the vaccine is not safe, that it can make you sick, or that it does not work.

“I have said it before, and I wish to say it again: please think long and hard before you press share or send. Please consider the harm you may be causing. You are spreading panic, fear and confusion at a time when we can ill-afford it.

“The scientific evidence before us shows that vaccines work. They are safe. They are effective, and they save lives. If you have any questions about the vaccine, if you are unsure in any way, please consult the information being provided by the Department of Health and from doctors,” he said.

The President addressed the nation on the developments in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday evening. Currently, the country is grappling with the new infections driven by the Delta variant but the President said there is evidence that the vaccines being used in the country are effective against the Delta variant.

He further said the Vaccine Ministerial Advisory Committee will continue to consider all data at its disposal and will adapt its advice as and when new evidence emerges.

“We must also remember that some vaccinated people may still become infected, regardless of variant, because no vaccine is 100% effective. Where vaccinated people do get infected, the symptoms tend to be mild.

“The most important thing is that any of the vaccines we are rolling out will protect you against severe disease, hospitalisation and, most importantly, death. I also want to remind the South African people that we must continue to follow the public health guidelines even if we are vaccinated.

“Throughout this pandemic, dedicated medical professionals, healthcare workers and scientists have led our national response. We owe them all a debt of gratitude for their professionalism and their dedication,” he said.

Personal attacks by political leaders

President Ramaphosa said it is therefore, extremely distressing when political leaders launch personal attacks against such people for doing the job they have been assigned to do.

“We must remember that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) is an independent regulator that focuses only on scientific evidence to ensure safety, quality and efficacy in the interest of public health.

“SAHPRA must be allowed to do its job without intimidation or political influence so that when vaccines are approved the public can be confident that the vaccines are safe, of good quality and will work,” he said.