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Top South African universities move towards mandatory Covid jabs

Images (l-r): Adrian Faith [CC BY-SA 3.0] and Samuella99 via Wikimedia Commons

Government sticks to persuasion but won’t stop institutions from requiring vaccinations

 South Africa’s two top-ranked universities are moving towards mandatory Covid-19 vaccination though the health minister has said it will not be national policy.

Health minister Joe Phaahla said that the government will not make vaccination “mandatory by law” in an 8 October response to a question from Inkatha Freedom Party MP Duduzile Hlengwa.

“The government approach is to invest in persuading people to see the life-saving value of vaccination,” Phaala said.

But he said the government will not prevent “private and independent institutions including public health bodies” adopting mandatory vaccination policies.

The University of the Witwatersrand on 7 October announced that it will join the University of Cape Town in moving towards mandatory vaccination as part of its plan to resume normal campus activities.

In September the UCT senate overwhelmingly voted for a petition for mandatory vaccination. The petition cited scientific evidence for vaccine efficacy and a need to protect the 2022 academic year as reasons for the move.

Wits’ mandatory vaccination framework was open to comments from staff and students until 11 October. The framework states that all staff, students, applicants, employees and service providers can access campus if they provide proof of vaccination.

Wits’ framework provides an option for those who do not want to, or cannot, be vaccinated. Such people must wear an N95 mask at all times and undertake daily health screening and weekly Covid-19 tests irrespective of symptoms, at their own cost. Unvaccinated staff and students will not be allowed to attend certain in-person events.

On 11 October UCT vice chancellor Mmamokgethi Phakeng announced that the university will hold vaccination engagement sessions with staff and students.

She said the executive supports mandatory vaccination and that UCT management will table its final decision at a council meeting on 16 October. The council has the final say on UCT policy.