COVID-19 prevention measures including lockdowns, school closures, and restricted movement disrupted young people’s lives. This longitudinal qualitative study conducted in Soweto, South Africa aimed to explore young people’s knowledge and perceptions of COVID-19, vaccination, and the impact of infections. A convenience sample of 30 young black people (n = 15 men; n = 15 women, aged 16–21 years) from Soweto participated in 24 focus group discussions (FGDs), conducted in six phases–each phase had four FGDs stratified by gender and age. Young people’s understanding of COVID-19 deepened throughout the study, however, did not always translate into adherence (following the government’s COVID-19 prevention measures). Although deemed inadequate, TV and radio were preferred over internet COVID-19 information. Parents, teachers, and schools were trusted sources of information. Vaccines and limited access to information attributed to low-risk perception, while new COVID-19 variants attributed to high-risk perception. A low-risk perception and conspiracy theories contributed to non-adherence (disregarding COVID-19 preventative measures provided by the government), particularly among young men. Accessing reliable information that considers young people’s lives and their living context is important. Communities, scientists, and policymakers must learn from the COVID-19 experience and implement localised preventive strategies for education, awareness, and economic support in future emergencies.
- South Africa
- young people