Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pledged to take a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes possible for him to do so, and has urged citizens not to fear being vaccinated.
In a statement released through the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation on Monday, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate reminded South African citizens of the importance of taking the vaccine amid public scepticism.
“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc. It has destroyed lives and livelihoods and it has robbed us of the comfort of family and friends, but we can stop it. We have vaccines,” he said. “I join many other world leaders in pledging to have a vaccine against COVID-19 as soon as one becomes available to me.”
This comes a few weeks after President Cyril Ramaphosa detailed South Africa’s vaccine rollout plan and encouraged citizens to trust in the vaccination process in one of his national addresses.
According to a poll conducted last year, 21% of South Africans are strongly opposed to taking a COVID-19 vaccine — with the majority of those against taking the shot being Black people and minorities.
To emphasise his point on the value of vaccines, Tutu detailed his experiences with TB when he contracted the disease as a child in 1945, and said we need to claim our lives back from COVID-19 in the same way that we have been able to claim our lives back from TB.
“It robbed me of two years of my life as I underwent treatment in a TB hospital,” the Archbishop recounted. “I was lucky. I recovered… in the more than 70 years since I underwent TB treatment, millions of South Africans, and millions more of their brothers and sisters across Africa and the world, have also lost their lives, to a disease that is preventable.”
“I am pledging to have a COVID-19 vaccine, because I already know what it is to lose years of your life to a disease. I also know what it is to worry that I have passed a preventable disease on to people I love. I ask you to do the same,” he continued.
“I am pledging to have a #COVID19 vaccine, because I already know what it is to lose years of your life to a disease.” – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutuhttps://t.co/wCP4cOVt8r— DesmondTutu Official (@TheDesmondTutu) January 18, 2021
📸Archbishop Tutu gets HIV Test - Wikimedia (2009) pic.twitter.com/7LsCzYQRwS
Tutu’s statement was released on the same day that South Africa’s health department announced it had secured 9 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Although further details have yet to be released, South Africa has also already acquired 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that will be arriving in the country in January and February.
The country is also set to receive 12 million doses from the COVAX Facility — a coalition established by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccines around the world — and an estimated 12 million from the African Union’s vaccine acquisition program.
To date South Africa has recorded more than 1.3 million infections and more than 37,000 deaths related to the virus, the most of any country in Africa.
"The more people who are vaccinated against COVID-19, the more every one of us is protected against this unpredictable and devastating disease,” explained Tutu. “Don’t let COVID-19 continue to ravage our country, or our world. Vaccinate.”