UFS joins Wits and UWC in implementing vaccine mandate for staff, students on campus

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  • The University of Free State won't allow unvaccinated individuals onto its campuses from February 2022.
  • UFS says it consulted widely before adopting a mandatory vaccination policy.
  • The Witwatersrand and Western Cape universities announced earlier that their vaccination mandates will to take effect from January next year.

The University of Free State (UFS) has adopted a vaccine mandate to be implemented in February next year.

The university council adopted the new vaccination policy on Friday. UFS said that consultation on the new policy was wide, and that its Senate had supported it with "an overwhelming 84%".

Following hot on the heels of University of Witwatersrand and University of th Western Cape adopting mandatory vaccination, UFS said its new policy did not force anyone to be vaccinated, and that the institution had the right to require vaccination to protect staff and students.

"The UFS is a residential university that requires face-to-face engagement by both staff and students, and operational requirements entail that our staff, ad hoc contract workers, and students are regularly exposed to large groups on the three campuses. We have a fiduciary duty to ensure a safe and caring environment and to meet the health and safety obligations on the campuses," said Rector and Vice-Chancellor Francis Petersen.

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Petersen added that since the advent of lockdowns in 2020, the university staff has been working remotely, except essential service employees and academic staff that were required to support students studying on campus in carefully managed face-to-face classes. However, sole remote learning could have a negative impact on the quality UFS graduates, said Petersen.

"The viability of consistent remote working and study conditions is not in line with the culture and strategy of the UFS. Although a blended learning approach is supported, sole online learning will be detrimental to the quality of our graduates and the experience that the institution should offer to its students as a residential university."

Vaccinated people would be required to upload their vaccination certificates on an electronic platform in order to access the university. Staff, contract workers and students who are not vaccinated and those who don't have a negative Covid-19 result (not older than a week) won't be be allowed access to all UFS campuses or its facilities.

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Petersen said students who were not vaccinated by 14 February 2022 wouldn't be prevented from registering for the academic year, but would only be allowed to access the campus if vaccinated or granted an exemption.

The institution said it had followed due processes by referring the proposed vaccination policy to all its governance structures for consultation, including obtaining opinions from reputable legal firms in the country.

"We will consider following a flexible approach if we initially find that the rate of vaccinations is low. We will work tirelessly with government to accelerate the rate of vaccinations, with the ultimate goal to obtain a high enough level of vaccinations to limit the transmission of the Covid-19 and create a safe work and study environment for our staff and students," said Petersen.

Wits and UWC vaccination mandates will take effect from January next year.

If you come across Covid-19 vaccination information that you do not trust, read Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here. If you can't find the facts you're looking for, email us at the address mentioned in the article and we will verify the information with medical professionals.

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