South Africa should introduce mandatory vaccine policies ahead of December: business group

 ·13 Oct 2021

Business for South Africa (B4SA) says that South Africa will need to introduce a combination of mandatory vaccine policies and incentives if the country is to meet its national vaccination target in December.

Currently, vaccination rates are well below the desired rate of 300,000+ per day, which would significantly lessen the scale and impact of a fourth wave of Covid-19 cases over December, said Martin Kingston, chair of the B4SA Steering Committee.

“For anyone to be fully vaccinated in time for the festive season, they must get their first Pfizer shot by 20 October, and it is now increasingly unlikely that 70% of adults will have had their first jab before then.”

In addition, there appears to be growing apathy towards the vaccination. Gauteng recently reported that a million people had not returned to get their second jab, Kingston said.

“In our view, a combination of mandatory vaccination policies, as well as incentives, are going to be necessary alongside the demand generation communications and mobilisation campaign to get as many people as possible vaccinated.”

While some people may feel that their rights may be infringed on with the introduction of vaccine mandates, he said that all employees have rights – not only the unvaccinated ones.

“Employers and businesses too, have rights, as well as a legal and moral obligation to provide a safe workplace and safe services to customers.

“Business has a leadership role to play in providing guidance and taking the initiative and doing so with urgency, in implementing vaccine mandates. This should form part of the comprehensive strategy to maximise swift and comprehensive vaccination so that, as a country, we can all get back to the business of living safely and maximising the scope for economic recovery.”

B4SA is an alliance of volunteers working with the South African government to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. “So far less than 30% of adult South Africans are fully vaccinated. What our data shows, is that after each age cohort opens for vaccination, demand spikes and then soon plateaus,” it said.

A poll conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council in June and July showed that 28% of 8,000 respondents is vaccine-hesitant. That is, they indicated that either don’t know if they will take a  vaccine, or that they probably or definitely would not take a vaccine.

The government won’t get in the way of business 

Health minister Joe Phaahla reaffirmed that the government will not introduce laws around mandatory vaccinations in a written parliamentary Q&A this week.

“Government does not intend to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory by law,” the minister said, noting that the government’s approach is to invest in persuading people to see the life-saving value of vaccination.

“While the state has no intention to make vaccination mandatory, we also have no intention to interfere in internal policies of private and independent institutions, including on the public health policies,” Phaahla said.

Financial services group Discovery has said that it will make vaccinations mandatory for all employees by 2022, while a number of other companies have expressed their interest in following suit, including Naspers, Curro, and Sanlam.

The move to make vaccines mandatory has also been bolstered by the official launch of the Covid-19 vaccine certificate this week, which businesses will be able to use to restrict access to venues based on vaccination status.

Read: This is where South Africa is heading right now: IMF.

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