Witwatersrand (Wits) University in Johannesburg is vaccinating students and staff on the campus ahead of the vaccine mandate starting on the 1st of March.
Although the university’s management stresses the safety of the vaccine and the need for the vaccination mandate to secure the future of in-person learning, it has been met with hesitancy and reluctance by students.
“We are an on-campus learning facility education and the safest way for us to do that is to be vaccinated. So, this policy really helps all of us to be vaccinated and be protected. You know if we vaccinate then we can congregate. We also do provide reasonable accommodation. So, if one has a constitutional reason or a medical reason for not vaccinating, then we review that and we can provide them with reasonable accommodation and they don’t have to be vaccinated,” said Scott Smalley, Wits University vaccination project manager.
Like many other African countries, South Africa is facing vaccine hesitancy from its population. Some students said it’s a choice and no one should be forced to take the jab.
“We believe that all students should be allowed to choose whether they want to be vaccinated or not, that no students should be forced to take a vaccine whether it’s indirectly or directly and that no student should be de-registered based on their vaccination status. We don’t believe that it’s morally and ethically justifiable to force or coerce people to take a vaccine that they don’t want in order for them to have access to tertiary education,” said Scara-Seugmet Kaboni, Wits Students Representative Councel legal officer
With more than 3.6 million diagnosed infections and more than 96,000 deaths, South Africa’s pandemic toll is the highest on the continent.