UCT academics propose mandatory vaccination for staff and students

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A woman receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in May. Photo:Jeff J Mitchell /Getty Images.
A woman receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in May. Photo:Jeff J Mitchell /Getty Images.

NEWS


More than 100 academics from the University of Cape Town (UCT) want it to become mandatory for all staff and students to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

City Press has seen a proposal which the academics, who sit in the university’s senate, will table at a meeting on Friday.

READ: Why are Covid-19 vaccination numbers low in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain?

In the proposal, the academics recommend to the council – the highest decision-making body at the university – that at its next sitting it should institute a mandate that students must produce an acceptable proof of vaccination as a condition of registration at UCT and staff must do the same as a condition of performing their duties from January 1 next year.

“[Senate] recommends to council that council mandates the executive officers of the university and the senate, by no later than November 1 2021, to constitute a panel comprising of eminent domain specialists, [as well as] members of the general staff and student bodies to establish the logistical and operational features required to implement this mandate, including access to vaccination facilities as well as communications to staff, students and the wider university community,” reads the proposal.

It says that the panel will also act as a body that will receive and adjudicate applications for exemption from the Covid-19 vaccination mandate, and will monitor the effectiveness and compliance with and outcomes of the mandate.

The panel will “continue to review the evolving medical evidence with regards to Covid-19 vaccination risks and benefits, and revise and revisit this mandate should it prove necessary”.

The proposal has been endorsed by more than 130 academics.

Medical students Jess Davies and Queren Kamuaya. (
Medical students Jess Davies and Queren Kamuaya. (Supplied)

On Monday, in a communique to students, the UCT student representative council (SRC) called on students to complete a survey by Thursday on mandatory vaccination for it to make a submission to the senate.

“While we have debated this extensively in the SRC, we have concluded that we cannot take a position on mandatory vaccinations without ascertaining the views of the student body. As such, we are requesting that students – and interested staff – share their views through a survey so that we can collect data and opinions to table before senate when it considers this motion on Friday,” reads the announcement.

The university’s vaccination site began operating on September 1, supported by the Western Cape department of health. The site is open to students and those who live and work around the university.

“We want our students, staff members and all community members in our vicinity to have the protection the vaccine provides against the worst possible effects of Covid-19. This new vaccination site is our way of giving back to the local community by providing the physical space and facilities,” said UCT vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng at the launch of the site.

The academics acknowledge the vaccination site in the proposal and say it will make vaccines more accessible. They state that a third year of disruptions to the academic project would be “extremely damaging”, ... particularly for those who most need the support of the structures available in a fully functioning academic environment ... UCT has an ethical obligation to the current generation of students who have entrusted the university with their education to reopen safely as soon as possible.”

“[The] low rates of vaccination serve as an obstacle to creating an environment that protects the health of all members of our community, one that allows for an optimal working, teaching, learning and research environment. Every effort must be made by the university [as well as] national, provincial and local authorities to encourage voluntary vaccination of staff and students through meaningful and respectful engagement, public information and advocacy role modelling, and peer support.”

READYou sneeze, you lose. Please get a Covid jab

According to the academics, a near-universal vaccination of all staff and students will, among other things, enhance the education of students by allowing for face-to-face learning and allow for research activities to resume and reduce further negative impacts on the university’s scientific output.

While addressing the nation on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said there were more than 7 million people who had been fully vaccinated in South Africa. He said the sooner a larger part of the population gets vaccinated, the sooner people can return to offices and other places of work.


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