Religious and traditional leaders from across the country are coming together to help the government achieve the desired immunity of 70% of the population by December.
As the rate of vaccination picks up, it is still well below the 70% mark required for life to return to some degree to normal next year.
Inkosi Patrick Sphamandla Khumalo from Amantungwa tribes in Utrecht in the campaign KZN said he saw his neighbor die of the disease.
The traditional chief said the couple, who were their neighbors, were taking care of their grandson and they died within a week of each other.
“They tested positive for the disease and were isolated. I learned of their death when their grandson started begging for food, ”Khumalo said.
Khumalo said he got his shot in an attempt to encourage members of his community to follow suit. He said Zulu men in particular were extremely reluctant to get vaccinated. “They are afraid that the vaccine will cause them to suffer from erectile dysfunction, so we need the government to come here and explain to them the dangers of this disease. “
Sugar daddies and the virus
The Utrecht region is extremely impoverished and Khumalo said the lack of secondary schools in the area has created an ideal ground for older men to prey on young girls.
Most young boys who don’t finish high school end up working for white families in nearby suburbs, according to Khumalo.
He said the region’s “sugar daddy” phenomenon has led to high rates of HIV infection among young girls and older men. “Covid-19 affects the immune system and it is important that people living with HIV need to be vaccinated,” Khumalo stressed.
“When young people finish their 7th year, they have to move to the townships if they want to continue their secondary education. Their parents or guardians often cannot afford it, ”Khumalo said. These “sugar daddies” offer to pay their rent in the townships and buy them basic necessities for school or luxuries like airtime and data.
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“These are the men who are afraid to be vaccinated because they do not want to lose their libido,” said the chief.
Khumalo had accompanied department officials to the Utrecht taxi rank in an effort to improve the reach of the vaccine, but of hundreds of men in the row, only 19 of them allowed health workers to administer the vaccine.
“Zulu men are stubborn, they will not seek medical help for anything unless it is very serious,” he said.
Khumalo is also concerned about small businesses that did not survive the pandemic. He said these companies provided jobs for the villagers. He wants the villagers to be vaccinated so that businesses can recover in a post-Covid world.
“Right now there are probably only 11% of people who are vaccinated, the government has to come here with another strategy,” Khumalo said.
Khumalo also called on the government to penalize those who disseminate misinformation, as this is one of the main factors behind the low vaccination rates in rural KZN.
Pastors join traditional leaders to encourage people to get vaccinated
Amajuba District Municipality Archbishop and Chancellor of Vineyard Bible and Theology College Professor Thami Myeza said he lost his brother, aunt and church to the virus.
Both tested positive for Covid and suffered from co-morbidities, including diabetes. “It’s very painful, I lost friends, neighbors and church members,” Myeza said.
He said he makes sure to get the word out in his sermons and preaches the benefits of vaccines every Sunday.
Myeza traveled to several villages, including Utrecht, to spread the word. “Now that it’s open to young people, we need to encourage them to get vaccinated,” Myeza said.
“Wherever we go, we emphasize to the faithful that Covid is not something foreign, but that it is here with us. We have to defeat it by getting vaccinated, ”Myeza said.
Myeza said disinformation is their biggest headache. He said people were afraid of dying six months after receiving the jab.
“Don’t gamble with your life, when people tell you stories and theories about Covid you cannot sacrifice your life for rumors,” Myeza said.
Myeza reminded people that death is part of life. “Leaders like Shaka Zulu and Mandela are dead, it’s true. But you don’t need to do that if there’s a way to keep yourself from getting really sick, ”Myeza said.