— Afrobarometer reveals
Liberians are proving to be proud religious fanatics who hold disdain for scientific knowledge—believing more in the power of prayer to heal and or protect them against the ravaging coronavirus disease than vaccines produced by scientists, a new report has revealed.
The new Afrobarometer study launched in Monrovia on Wednesday under the theme, Views on COVID-19 and Government’s Response to the Pandemic, shows a less-than-encouraging attitude toward the vaccine, as most say prayer is more effective than a vaccine in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The study is an initiative of the Anglophone West Africa Afrobarometer project and the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDG).
Many were stunned by the findings from the survey, especially where almost ninety percent of respondents said they would prefer prayers over any COVID-19 vaccine.
The survey report says almost nine in 10 citizens (86%) say prayer is more effective than a vaccine would be in preventing COVID-19 infection, including 61% who think prayer is “much more effective.”
And only two in 10 Liberians (20%) say they trust the government “somewhat” or “a lot” to ensure that any COVID-19 vaccine is safe before it is used in the country, while only one-third (34%) say they are likely to try to get vaccinated if a vaccine becomes available.
“This belief will create resistance to government’s efforts in ensuring that Liberians are protected against the virus if it were to procure and secured vaccines for Liberians,” Oscar Bloh, CDG Director, said when he unveiled the findings.
Bloh expressed fear that Liberians will be at the losing end if they do not build trust in the work of scientists.
However, Liberians are not alone in this pessimistic attitude toward the COVID-19 vaccines as South African Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng last month touched on issues raised in anti-vaccine circles.
Delivering a prayer in Guateng Province, he emphasised his belief in Christianity and said he would not stop praying to God to act against vaccines that could potentially affect people’s lives negatively.
After his comment was greeted with a barrage of criticism, the Chief Justice said those who could vouch for the effectiveness of the vaccine and that it did not have side-effects, must be the ones to propagate it. “I’m not a scientist … I’m a prayer warrior,” he said.
But in the words of Mr. Bloh, the government has a huge task at hand if it is to ensure that Liberians trust the vaccines that are being produced. “This government has a lot to do to encourage our people about the vaccines if we will be lucky to have some coming here.
Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that there are more vaccine candidates simultaneously in the pipeline for COVID-19 than ever before for an infectious disease.
The CDC notes that there are four categories of vaccines in clinical trials: WHOLE VIRUS, PROTEIN SUBUNIT, VIRAL VECTOR and NUCLEIC ACID. But for Liberians, prayers are more powerful than any of these scientific solutions and, as it is often said in the religious circles, “Divinity supersedes humanity.”
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan survey research project that measures citizens’ attitudes on democracy and governance, the economy, corruption, social tolerance and other important topics.
The institution’s Anglophone West Africa Manager, Daniel Armah-Attoh, said the team interviewed a national representative, randomly stratified probability sample of 1,200 adult Liberians between October and December 2020.
A sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. Previous standard surveys were conducted in Liberia in 2008, 2012, 2015, and 2018.
The findings from the survey also revealed that a majority of Liberians approve of the government’s performance in managing the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including necessary lockdowns, though most believe that COVID-19 relief was not distributed fairly.
“A quarter of citizens say their households lost income because of the pandemic. While most citizens support the lockdown as necessary, most also found it difficult to comply with the restrictions,” the report indicated.
Two-thirds (66%) of Liberians say the government needs to invest more in preparing to respond to health emergencies like COVID-19, even if it means fewer resources are available for other health services.
One Hundred respondents said that they or a member of their household became ill with COVID-19, and a quarter (25%) say they lost income because of the pandemic.
About eight in 10 Liberians (81%) say they found it “difficult” or “very difficult” to comply with COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
But a similar majority (83%) “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that the lockdown was necessary in spite of the toll it took on the economy and people’s livelihoods.
Seven in 10 (71%) also “somewhat support” or “strongly support” the closure of schools to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
But most think the period during which schools were closed was “somewhat too long” (23%) or “much too long” (59%).
Fewer than one in 10 Liberians (9%) say they or their households received government assistance during the pandemic (Figure 2).
Economically, well-off citizens (those experiencing no lived poverty) (16%) are twice as likely as relatively poorer citizens (those experiencing low, moderate, or high lived poverty) (7%-9%) to report receiving assistance. Urban residents were twice as likely as rural dwellers to receive relief (12% vs. 6%). And only 1% of those aged over 55 say they received assistance.
About eight in 10 (78%) citizens say the benefits of government programs to support people during the COVID-19 pandemic were not distributed fairly.
Majorities say the government is doing “fairly well” or “very well” in managing the response to the pandemic (64%) and keeping the public informed (80%).
However, only three in 10 (30%) say they trust government statistics on COVID-19. And eight in 10 (81%) think that “some” or “a lot” of the resources that were available for combating the COVID-19 pandemic were lost or stolen due to corruption among government officials.
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, nonpartisan survey research network that provides reliable data on African experiences and evaluations of democracy, governance, and quality of life.