Charlize Theron takes on new role of fighting vaccine hesitancy

Credit: CBSNews
Credit: CBSNews

▶ Watch Video: Charlize Theron joins the fight against COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the Global South

The COVID-19 vaccination rate is less than 4% in South Africa, where Oscar-winner Charlize Theron was born.

Her organization, “The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project”, is stepping up to help fight vaccine misinformation and inequality that is found in poorer countries like South Africa.

The program has been fighting to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among South Africa’s adolescent population since 2007. She said her organization has been speaking to South African residents who have been hesitant to get the shot because of vaccine misinformation.

“I mean, we’ve seen misinformation with HIV. So it’s not new to us. It’s in finding that right community-based health worker that will be able to sit down with somebody and speak to them in a language they understand. And they know her because they see her down the street,” Theron told CBS News’ Jonathan Vigliotti.

Theron is now channeling her organization’s grassroots network in the fight against COVID. Just 14% of South Africa’s population of 60 million is fully vaccinated.

“We have to remember that we’re talking about families. And when we see the devastation that COVID-19 has caused us personally here in America, it’s so much worse in countries like South Africa,” said Theron.

The global pandemic has exposed how public healthcare systems are failing marginalized populations. Only one-third of the promised doses of COVID-vaccines have been delivered to Africa.

“These viruses will not go away until we actually look at social injustices. We value certain lives more than others and until that goes away, we will never get to the end of diseases like HIV or COVID,” Theron said.

Theron is hopeful that by raising awareness in vulnerable communities about the dangers of COVID-19, more people will feel comfortable being vaccinated.

“Listen, I am, like, an optimist,” she said. “If I didn’t think that there was hope for any of this stuff…That human spirit that we all have, and how you see people survive things that are unimaginable, is what gives me hope because I’ve seen people come out on the other side because we can do this. We actually can.”

Earlier this summer, President Biden pledged to send 1 billion additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to other countries but Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, who is working with Theron’s foundation, told “CBS Mornings” that is still not enough.

“While we are encouraged by the administration’s urgent call to action we need more vaccines delivered to the developing world,” Walker said. “So the 1 billion is a great start but we need a multiple of that number.”

Walker said the United States should work with other G-20 nations to organize a “collective action” because more money will be needed.

“This is going to take tens of billions of dollars. You got to come up with the financing for that. You have to work on the supply,” Walker said.

The Ford Foundation will be donating $15 million in Ford Foundation grants to help address vaccine hesitancy.

“Vaccine hesitancy is a major challenge,” Walker said. “Misinformation and disinformation across the African continent is real just as it is in the United States.”

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