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No Jab, No Job? The Debate Around Mandatory Covid-19 Vaccines

Could Covid-19 vaccines be made mandatory?

The option to receive the Covid-19 vaccination is a personal choice. However, recent comments by roleplayers and policies made by companies have ignited the debate around vaccines being made mandatory.

Earlier this week financial service firm Discovery announced that vaccinations will be made mandatory for its staff. According to Discovery group CEO Adrian Gore says “this process will consider the employees’ health, religious and other legal rights and seek to balance these with the rights of all employees across the group”.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Parliamentary Coordinator, Matthew Parks says that the debate around mandatory vaccination is a balancing act. It is a constitutional right for a person not to take the Covid-19 vaccine. However, this has to be weighed against the impact this right may have on society.

Parks says that Discovery should “go and engage with the staff to get their buy-in to convince them of the need to vaccinate to embrace it to support it”. Cosatu is however concerned that the statement made by Discovery could lead to other companies forcing their employees to get vaccinated. The union has seen cases where workers have been victimised for not being vaccinated.

Parks says Cosatu does support Covid-19 vaccination as it will enable people to protect themselves, their families and prevent lockdowns. This in turn will help rebuild the South African economy and save jobs. He says that vaccination should be encouraged and not be a punitive measure.

Last month, Professor Shabir Madhi, Director of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytical Research Unit at the University Witwatersrand, said that it is unlikely that the Covid-19 vaccine will be made mandatory in South Africa. Also last month, Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba said that the government were engaging with the liquor industry around having proof of vaccination in order to purchase alcohol.

As of September 2, 2021, just under 10 million people have received a Covid-19 vaccine with 6,3 million people being fully vaccinated. This means that they either received one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

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