No Final Decision on Mandatory Vaccinations By Higher Education Sector

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Covid-19 vaccines are widely viewed as the best weapon against the Covid-19 pandemic. As a new wave of infections begin in South Africa and the threat of a lockdown, President Cyril Ramaohosa set up a task team to investigate the possibility of making vaccines mandatory.


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Covid-19 vaccines are widely viewed as the best weapon against the Covid-19 pandemic. As a new wave of infections begin in South Africa and the threat of a lockdown, President Cyril Ramaohosa set up a task team to investigate the possibility of making vaccines mandatory.

Some institutions of Higher Learning in South Africa have introduced mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policies. Some of which make vaccination a requirement in order to be allowed to use the institution's facilities.

Professor Ramneek Ahlulwalia, CEO of Higher Health, says that a number of factors need to be considered before a mandatory vaccination policy can be put in place. He explains that the majority of higher learning institutions in the country were designed as contact learning centres.

In 2020, South Africa entered a hard lockdown and so did higher education. While some students returned to class, many universities adopted a blended approach to teaching and learning.

Ahulwalia says that 70% of learning is now taking place outside the vicinity of these institutions. He says many of the stakeholders want a full time return to campuses. Vaccination is viewed as a tool to achieve this safely.

“There's a huge outcry from parents who are paying the fees, student bodies and everyone around about the actual graduate competencies and skills building through the actual way of contact learning. So this means the question on business continuity by these universities is high on their radar at this moment and the business continuity is directly proportional to the vaccination numbers”.

Ahulwalia says many consultations are taking place around vaccination explaining, “What we're thinking about is looking at if you are going to be in a residence and you're going to be sharing spaces together, congregation of our accommodation spaces are with two people at times in one room if not single room facility and we need to accommodate people. Vaccination will be a point of getting access into the residence program into the institutions of our learning”.

He says there is a possibility that mandatory vaccinations could spark student protests. However, for now their in a consensus on the importance of vaccinations.

“Once you have a consensus among the majority of the population together including the leadership then there is a question on on how do we proceed with them so we are walking with them toward the vaccine promotion project and there will be with them a time when …we will hit a deadlock … and that is the time when we'll collectively make the decision as a sector on mandatory [vaccination],” concluded Ahulwalia.

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