Inoculated expats urge South Africans to take COVID-19 vaccines

Eyewitness News spoke to expats living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where nearly 3.5 million people have been vaccinated in the last six weeks.

FILE: A handout picture taken by the Government of Dubai Media Office on 23 December 2020, shows a health worker administering a dose of the coronavirus vaccine to a nurse at a medical centre in the Dubai Emirate. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Now that the country has received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines, South Africans who have already been inoculated elsewhere have spoken of their experiences.

Eyewitness News spoke to expats living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where nearly 3.5 million people have been vaccinated in the last six weeks.

Rian Potgieter - originally from Krugersdorp in western Johannesburg - has been working and living in the UAE for nine years.

The restaurant manager contracted the coronavirus in May last year.

In the UAE, citizens have access to two vaccines - one from US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the other developed by Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm.

Potgieter opted for the latter. He urged South Africans to seek answers from qualified professionals instead of listening to conspiracy theories.

“I really hope that South Africans can be exposed to more vaccines who they can make a choice between which vaccines you want to take.”

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Marion Erskine from Randfontein left South Africa for the UAE nearly 20 years ago.

He has already taken both his shots of the same vaccine and admitted that it wasn’t an easy decision.

"Of course I was scared. I don’t think anyone goes into a decision like this without being scared what’s going to happen. You hear all these conspiracy theories, but I wanted to do something from my side and it’s a very personal decision. I wanted to do it. I know many South Africans that wanted to take it. We're all fine."

South Africa will soon start vaccinating millions of its citizens against COVID-19 - but there are those who remain sceptical about their origins, efficacy and perceived government intentions.

The emigrants said that politics should not cloud anyone’s judgement when deciding to take the vaccine.

“Just for a second remove yourselves from the political anger about the vaccines and then research, research, research,” said Potgieter.

He said that he understood that not everyone wanted to be vaccinated, but said that political divisions should not be the reason.

Barbara Gas - originally from the Eastern Cape - received her second dose of the vaccine developed by Sinopharm at the weekend.

She said that for her, keeping her loved ones safe was a priority.

“I would like to see the world coming back to some form of normality. I would like to travel again and see my family. I would love to walk around without a damned mask. Try not to think of the politics behind it and think about why we have to take the vaccine for our families, why we have to take it for our friends, why we have to take it for our fellow humans.”

It’s expected that South Africa will roll out its inoculation drive - starting with healthcare workers - in the next two weeks.

The aim is to vaccinate 67% of the population by year-end in order to achieve herd immunity.

WATCH: What you should know about the COVID-19 vaccine in SA

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