The hashtag #VaxxedGirlSummer has exploded on Twitter and means “being free, living your best life and being comfortable in the skin you’re in.”

Palesa Mgijima, from Cape Town, explained what it meant to her.

“It is a way to get people inspired to vaccinate and to enjoy summer days outside like we used to. The hashtag is to encourage a sense of belonging, reminding each other that we are not alone in this,” said the 29-year-old.

“It’s a call to boys and girls alike to come together and get vaccinated. Travelling, going to parties and spending time outdoors again is all possible if we lower the rate of transmission. And in order to do that, we have to get vaccinated.”

However, according to preliminary evidence, even fully vaccinated persons can become infected and pass the virus on to others so it is important to continue practicing safety measures like mask wearing, hand sanitising and social distancing. The vaccine is most useful at preventing severe illness and death so fully vaccinated persons need to abide by infection control rules to protect everyone, but especially the unvaccinated population.

Mgijima works at a storage company and is a beauty and lifestyle content creator. She identified the number of COVID-19 deaths as the main reason for wanting to be vaccinated.

‘Enough is enough’

“As soon as I heard there was going to be a vaccine, I was keen. The number of people that have lost loved ones in the past year due to COVID-19 is too high. Seeing how much this virus has taken from us as a country and will continue to take if we don’t do anything about it. Enough is enough,” said Mgijima.

A recent study, funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), revealed that South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 orphans on the continent. Close to 95 000 children have lost their parents or guardians from the start of the pandemic in March last year up until April this year.

According to Professor Lucie Cluver, who is based at the University of Cape Town and Oxford University and is one of the authors, one in every 200 South African children have lost a primary caregiver.

Sharing her experience

As an active social media user, Mgijima said she plans to document her vaccination experience from her arrival on-site to her side effects afterwards, should she experience any. And she’ll be using the #VaxxedGirlSummer hashtag of course.

Vaccine sites across the country finally opened their doors to the 18 to 34 age group earlier this month and there seems to be no stopping the youngsters as they continue to stream in and be jabbed.

The hashtag #VaxxedGirlSummer has seen several blogs pop up in which young people share their hopes for the summer as well as online merchandise including stickers, beauty products and t-shirts for sale.

Checking up on family members

Another Capetonian, Babalwa Taliwe, is constantly checking up on her family members to hear if they’ve been vaccinated.

““I was definitely influential in persuading my family to vaccinate. I signed my mom, my aunt and grandmother up. I recently checked to see if my brother and my dad were vaccinated as well. I’ve spoken to them about getting the vaccine and shared information with them. I didn’t want to be pushy with other people because it’s about their health, But with my family, I made sure to push,” she said.

The 26-year-old said the coronavirus pandemic affected her mental health because of the number of deaths. Having to bury a loved one virtually is something she never imagined.

“I definitely had some anxiety about getting the vaccine because medicine trials haven’t always been ethically or morally correct. Take for instance the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. I used reliable sources for my research and consulted with my GP which helped me. My biggest driving point was that I did not want to die on a ventilator without my family visiting me. I think that would possibly be the worst thing anyone could experience,” said Taliwe.

‘This girl is on Pfizer’

Another popular hashtag doing the rounds refers to Alicia Keys’ smashit “This Girl is on Fire”, which was released nine years ago. The song encourages empowerment and strength and reminds women that they are powerful. Female social media users have adapted the song title to ‘this girl is on Pfizer’ in celebration of their COVID-19 shots.

Anathi Tshabe, 26,  is a full-time Master’s Candidate in Global Affairs at Tsinghua University in Beijing. She is currently completing her studies remotely due to travel restrictions.

“I desperately wanted to leave South Africa to attend my studies in person and I thought that getting the vaccine was probably my only ticket out of the country. I am pleasantly surprised that the South African vaccination rollout program opened up for our age group so soon because I only expected to get vaccinated well into 2022,” explained Tshabe.

Tshabe, from Komani in the Eastern Cape, believes that taking the vaccine is an act of kindness to the people around you as well as her civil duty.

“I got my first dose of Pfizer and I am excited to get my second dose after 42 days which will mean I’m fully vaccinated. After over 24 hours, all I have is a sore arm and no other symptoms. I feel like my regular self and I have been able to work at full capacity the whole day. It means I can do an international trip without having to worry about quarantine costs,” said Tshabe.

Tshabe sees herself potentially moving to China and learning more about the country and hopes to demystify the misinformation about China and the coronavirus.

Spreading the word

Tshabe is encouraging members of her family, friends, and community to get vaccinated and is adamant to make it happen by sharing her experience, correct information and showing the elders how to register.

“I have also been adamant to get my grandmother and other family members in the rural areas vaccinated. I have assisted by helping with online registration on the portal and organizing transport to a vaccination sites. I have personally texted all my close friends to inform them that I have vaccinated and encouraged them to vaccinate too. Fortunately, only one of my friends was hesitant, but after our long conversation, I believe he will come around. I have also shared my vaccination experience on all my social media platforms to encourage the youth to vaccinate too,” said Tshabe.

Tshabe recently started a YouTube channel and hopes to share her experience on all her social media channels to reach more people, including LinkedIn.  – Health-e News