Petition wants unvaccinated staff and students barred from 1 January 2022
More than 100 University of Cape Town professors have called for Covid-19 vaccinations to be mandatory for all staff and students at the university with effect from 1 January 2022.
Their petition to the university’s senate envisages proof of vaccination as “a condition of being able to perform their duties” for staff and as a condition of registration for students.
The petition, which will be debated by the UCT senate on 17 September, was proposed by Linda-Gail Bekker, a former International Aids Society president who heads South Africa’s Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. It was seconded by Ntobeko Ntusi, head of UCT’s Department of Medicine.
The petition urges the university to take the drastic step in order to prevent the 2022 academic year becoming as disrupted as the two previous years. SARS-CoV-2 caused “immense damage” to the UCT community, the signatories say, particularly to its poor and disadvantaged members.
A total of 131 senior UCT staff, mostly professors, have supported the petition. They include top scientists and scholars like chemist Kelly Chibale, pulmonologists Heather Zar and Keertan Dheda, geneticist Ambroise Wonkam and law scholar Pierre de Vos.
The weight of scientific evidence that vaccines protect the health system and prevent the emergence of new variants motivated the professors’ call. They urge UCT to establish by 1 November a panel of experts, staff and students to set up the logistical and operational features to ensure vaccination of all staff and students by the end of the year, and to formulate “systematic principles, rules and guidance” for vaccination exemptions.
They also urge all members of the university community in the meantime to promote voluntary vaccination through health messaging and raising awareness.