Covid-19: Universities ponder implementing mandatory vaccination at campuses

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Stellenbosch University students que to receive Covid-19 vaccine.
Stellenbosch University students que to receive Covid-19 vaccine.
Photo by Gallo Images/ER Lombard
  • Institutions of higher learning could introduce mandatory Covid-19 testing.
  • This would serve as an incentive to encourage vaccination among students.
  • Other incentive programmes are also being considered.

While institutions of higher learning debate mandatory vaccination, university and college students could be required to produce a negative Covid-19 test before attending in-person classes, Higher Health has said.

Higher Health is the health, wellness and development centre that leads, plans and implements health and wellness programmes in the post-school education and training (PSET) sector. The sector encompasses more than 200 public and private higher education and training institutions and some 2 000 campuses.

The sector may introduce Covid-19 testing for all unvaccinated people with weekly or 72-hour intervals, said Higher Health CEO Professor Ramneek Ahluwalia.

Campuses across the country have been grappling with the choice of whether or not to implement mandatory vaccination. The universities of Johannesburg and Stellenbosch are currently considering implementing a mandatory vaccination policy. While they will not be enforcing mandatory vaccinations yet, the Free State and Rhodes universities have appointed task teams to workshop the issue of returning to in-person classes.

READ | Universities mull mandatory vaccination policies

"We are advising that we should give the national vaccination drive time to mature. It's been a couple of weeks since all adults qualified for a vaccine. Information and mobilisation initiatives are being strengthened nationally and within our and other sectors. Access in terms of the supply of doses and the number of vaccination sites is ramping up. We are saying let us allow reasonable time for all these components to work properly before adopting a harder mandatory approach across the board," said Ahluwalia.

Ahluwalia added that institutions have autonomy as employers and must make independent decisions around vaccination specific to their needs.

The sector is also considering offering incentives in a bid to make vaccination more attractive. This is in addition to considerations around regular testing, said Ahluwalia.

"The prospect of being asked to test frequently is likely to sway more people towards vaccination," he added.

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