JUBA, South Sudan
Women in South Sudan are shying away from getting COVID-19 vaccines despite the country's struggle against the pandemic with 11,936 infections and 128 deaths, official data shows.
According to the Health Ministry, South Sudan has received 271,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, which have helped the country vaccinate 96,000 people so far.
As of Monday, the East African country registered six new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 11,954, while 128 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded since the outbreak there began in April last year.
Lack of awareness
Victoria Anib Majur, a senior Health Ministry official, told Anadolu Agency that the number of women turning up to receive COVID-19 jabs was very low compared to men.
"With the support of UNICEF, we recently conducted a survey that showed fewer women are turning up for vaccination at health centers because of the rumors that the vaccine causes infertility. We're trying to create awareness," she said.
Majur said that though demand for vaccines was now high, fewer women are turning up to get the jab, a trend that has become a source of concern.
The country's director-general of preventive health, Atem Riak, said the latest figures showed that the total number of women inoculated stood at 19,890 which is 26.4% of the people vaccinated so far.
"In comparison, 55,375 men got jabs, which are 73.6% of the people vaccinated so far against the virus," he said.
He said the number of women should be at least half of total people vaccinated, or the same amount as men.
"We want to find out why women are not getting vaccines. The ministry is now launching an awareness campaign to educate people about the benefits of the vaccine," said the health official.
Do vaccines cause infertility?
Several women that Anadolu Agency has spoken to revealed that rumors that the jabs cause infertility is a major factor keeping them away from vaccination centers.
Pita John, a 24-year-old mother of two children working in a restaurant in the Konyokonyo market, said she was not interested in getting vaccinated because it caused a lot of problems, including infertility.
"I'm not willing to go for vaccination. Why should I go for a vaccine that will bring serious problems? Many people are saying the vaccine causes infertility," she said expressing her concerns.
Mary Katmala, a 30-year-old mother of three, shared John's fears.
"I still want more children. So, there's no need for me to take the vaccine that causes infertility. I'd rather die from COVID-19 if that is the case," she told Anadolu Agency.
Ayen Ater, 27, a diploma-holder in business administration, said she would take the jab only after seeing a vaccinated person produce children.
"I consulted some of my colleagues who studied medicine and they told me that the vaccines are still new and that they don't know their outcome. Since doctors themselves don't know what'll happen, I won't risk myself now. It will be better to wait and see what will be the outcome of the vaccines," she said.