Siyanda Ngwenyama (37) says the spread of fake news about Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) vaccines is dangerous and can affect lives, especially when read by people with a limited education and limited access to factual news.
Ngwenyama is serving a 22-year prison sentence at Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre in Tshwane. He was arrested for house robbery, hijacking, attempted murder and possession of stolen property. His sentence started in December 2020.
He is one of the offenders who have vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I was vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I consented to get vaccinated because I have lost people very close to my heart due to COVID-19. I do not want to die a Correctional Centre,” he says.
Ngwenyama did not experience any side effects, except for feeling dizzy for a few minutes after getting the jab.
“I lost two siblings to COVID-19 in September 2020, and one of my closest friends, who is locked up in a maximum-security Correctional Centre, also got infected. I know this virus can take my life if I do not do what is needed to fight it,” says Ngwenyama.
The roll-out of vaccines at the correctional centre started in July 2021, and Ngwenyama was among the first offenders who took the jab.
Ngwenyama worries that the spread of vaccine fake news is what leads many people to doubting their effectiveness and safety.
“As offenders, sometimes we debate issues affecting society, such as COVID-19. It is scary to hear how many people actually believe that vaccines are meant to kill us.
“This makes many people sceptical about taking the vaccine, which means it will take time for us to win the fight against the pandemic,” he says.
He calls on everyone to get vaccinated to save their own life and those of their loved ones.
“You cannot be forced to take the vaccine if you do not want. Please think about how many people have died so far. Ask yourself if you can survive this deadly virus. Get vaccinated,” he says.