Universities in South Africa back vaccine mandates as institutions reflect on policy directive

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A heated debate over whether to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for university staff and students and collages is currently underway as institutions decide whether or not to issue a policy directive as plans are underway to the coming academic year and as a forthcoming fourth wave.

The issue of making vaccines mandatory has been a controversial topic, as many companies question whether they can make staff vaccinations against Covid-19 mandatory.

Universities in South Africa, an organization that represents 26 public institutions, have said they will support the call for a policy that mandates vaccination to prevent campuses from being breeding grounds for Covid-19.

“Universities SA and universities are deeply committed to the challenge of bringing students back to campus and taking courses. There may well be an increased use of technology, but it is also clearly recognized that learning and teaching are intensely social activities, ”said Ahmed Bawa, CEO of African Universities in Africa. South.

“It is (a) necessary to ensure the safety of students and staff and to prevent outbreaks of Covid-19 on campuses. Educational establishments are very threatened gathering places. It is therefore on this basis that Universities SA supports the call for compulsory vaccines.

“There may well be people who do not want to be vaccinated for various reasons. Obviously, there will have to be structures and processes to deal with such appeals. And maybe require these people to take regular Covid-19 tests – maybe once a week. “

Calls and questions to the Ministry of Higher Education and Education and Training on whether such a mandate would be supported or implemented in managed technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges by the government were not answered. There are currently 50 registered TVET colleges across the country with over 360 campuses spread across urban and rural areas.

Bawa said questions on how institutions could implement such a mandate would be facilitated by a sectoral decision that would facilitate the management and development of a more coherent approach.

In the Western Cape, two of the Big Four institutions are considering the decision to implement this in time for the start of the 2022 academic year.

The University of Cape Town Senate debated a motion on the vaccine mandate on Friday and is expected to vote on the issue this week before the institution’s board makes a final decision.

“The Senate has debated and deliberated on the complex issue at length, taking into account a range of perspectives. A vote of the members of the Senate present at the meeting will follow at the beginning of next week ”, declared Elijah Maholola of the institution.

“The UCT reiterates that any final decision on a matter of policy for the university will have to be a decision of the Council. If passed, any decision on the motion will ultimately be taken by Council (which) will consider the proposal thoroughly before making a decision. “

Martin Viljoen of the University of Stellenbosch said the institution has set up a task force to explore the possibility of a tenure.

“A task team was appointed to do a risk assessment of the various factors involved for SU staff and students not getting vaccinated. This is necessary in accordance with a health and safety regulation issued by the Ministry of Employment and Labor in June this year, ”he said.

“The result of the risk assessment will guide our vaccination policy. Management and the Institutional Committee for the Continuation of League Activities (managing the University’s response to the pandemic) will make a recommendation to the Board, which will then make a final decision at its December 2 meeting.

“It is an institutional priority for the League that all staff and students are vaccinated in the interest of health and safety. SU opened its own Covid-19 vaccination center in August at the Lentelus Sports Clubhouse.

“Almost 2,000 students and 420 staff members have been vaccinated at Lentelus. They also used facilities elsewhere.

Gasant Abarder, of the University of the Western Cape, said mandatory vaccinations were not a policy the institution was currently considering.

“(UWC) will be guided by the Protocols for Covid-19 as established by the Presidency and the National Ministry of Health. The UWC is also guided by a sectoral approach and engages on these issues with organizations such as Higher Health and Universities South Africa.

To date, the institution claims to have vaccinated 1,540 students with a single dose while 397 others have been fully vaccinated. Up to 872 staff have received a single dose and 814 are considered fully immunized.

“In addition, 774 family members of staff and students have received a single dose and 507 are fully immunized. In addition, staff and students may have been vaccinated at other vaccination sites, ”said Harriet Box of the university.

Lauren Kansley, of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, said that since mandatory vaccinations are not required by law, they do not pursue this path.

“So far, our vaccination center has provided just under 9,000 vaccines to student staff and members of the public,” she said.

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