How many people support ‘vaccine passports’ in South Africa – and where they could be used

The University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) have published the results of a new survey on mandatory workplace vaccination and the use of vaccine passports to enter public places in South Africa.

The survey is based on responses collected between 22 October and 17 November 2021. It was fully completed by 6,633 participants. All of the data was weighted to match Statistics South Africa data on race, education and age.

In addition, the researchers incorporated a further adjustment for vaccination rate by gender to match data provided by the Department of Health for the midpoint of the survey period. These findings can be regarded as broadly indicative of the views of the adult population at large.

The key findings from the survey include:

  • 54% of South African adults support employers making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory and 51% support vaccine passports.
  • However, levels of support for these policies differ considerably by vaccination status and willingness to vaccinate. Among the fully vaccinated support for compulsory workplace vaccination and vaccine passports is 75% and 78%, respectively. However, among those that are unvaccinated and do not want to be vaccinated support falls to under 10% for both measures.
  • Support for compulsory workplace vaccination is highest amongst Indian adults (65%) followed by Black African Adults (56%), Coloured adults (49%) and lowest among White adults (32%).
  • Similarly, support for vaccine passports is lower among White adults, 32% compared to 54% for Black African adults, 51% of Indian adults, and 46% among Coloured adults.
  • Higher levels of education seem to be associated with greater opposition to compulsory workplace vaccination and vaccine passports. 61% of those with less than matric support compulsory workplace vaccination compared to 39% of those with post-matric education. 60% of those with less than matric support providing proof of vaccination to enter public places compared to 40% of those with post-matric education.
  • There were negligible differences by gender and small differences by age.
  • Adults aged 18-24 years had slightly higher support for compulsory workplaces vaccination compared to older age groups: 57% compared to 52% for those aged 55 and above. However, they were slightly less supportive of vaccine passports, 51% compared to 55% for those aged 55 and above.
  • The survey also gauged relative levels of support for vaccine passports to enter six particular types of public places. Close to half (47%) supported vaccine passports being introduced for sporting events at stadiums. Similar shares (43%-45%) supported vaccine passports at schools and universities, and at restaurants, shisa nyamas, coffee shops or nightclubs.
  • Slightly lower support was evident for such measures at municipal offices (38%) and places of worship (40%). Vaccination status and level of vaccine hesitancy again matter appreciably for levels of support.

Where is South Africa on vaccine mandates? 

The government held further discussions on the introduction of vaccine mandates this week, but no official decision has been taken – meaning a mandate or passport system will only likely be introduced in early 2022.

In a briefing on Thursday (9 December), minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele said that no formal proposals had been tabled around vaccine mandates, with further discussions still set to take place in the coming weeks.

However, the government has thrown its support behind a push by the private sector to get clarity on mandatory vaccinations through the country’s courts.

Addressing a Nedlac meeting on Tuesday (7 December), Labour minister Thulas Nxesi said that the group is expected to approach the Constitutional Court for a legal declarator on vaccine mandates in 2022.

Nedlac has recommended that mandatory vaccinations be implemented in workplaces, while specific venues would only be accessible to those vaccinated. Gatherings, events and the hospitality sector are all expected to introduce mandates.

“The social partners have agreed that to promote vaccination and protect the country from lockdown, workplaces should require employees to be vaccinated to enable occupational health and safety and that access should be restricted to certain venues and gatherings only to vaccinated persons,” said Nedlac executive director Lisa Seftel.

Read: Discovery’s data shows that mandatory vaccine policies work in South Africa

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How many people support ‘vaccine passports’ in South Africa – and where they could be used