Net widens for suggested mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations
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DURBAN – The South African Committee of Medical Deans (Sacomd) and the South African Committee of Dental Deans (Saccod) announced on Tuesday that they would be recommending compulsory vaccination for health students and the general health-care workforce.
The two organisations include deans from the country’s medical schools at the Nelson Mandela University, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, University of Cape Town, University of Limpopo, University of Pretoria, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Wits University, Stellenbosch University, Walter Sisulu University, and Free State University.
Professor Tiaan De Jager, chairperson of Sacomd said as tertiary institutions which educate the health workforce, they would recommend compulsory vaccination against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, for all health sciences students as well as the general health workforce.
De Jager said: “Our final recommendation is that all health-care workers in South Africa who have already received a single dose of the non-replicating vector Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine should receive a booster dose.
“The single-dose J&J vaccine among South African health workers has been reported to reduce risk of hospitalisation and death by 74% and 97%, respectively.
“However, data is unavailable on the J&J vaccine’s effectiveness against infection and mild Covid-19; its efficacy is expected to be substantially lower than two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which induces substantially higher concentrations of neutralising antibody than a single dose of J&J.”
He added: “A booster dose of J&J six months after vaccination has been shown to increase antibody levels ninefold. Alternatively, a heterologous prime-boost approach with a boost of a messenger RNA vaccine – for which evidence for the AstraZeneca non-replicating vector vaccine (which induces similar antibody responses even after a single dose compared with the J&J vaccine) followed by a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine exists – could be considered.”
They also recommended that there should be serious consideration of booster doses for all health-care workers in South Africa who already received a single dose of the non-replicating vector J&J Covid-19 vaccine.
The statement from Sacomd and Sacodd comes after the Discovery Group announced last week that it would be introducing a mandatory vaccination policy for its employees.
Dr Ronald Whelan, chief commercial officer at Discovery Health, said the group had consulted various legal and constitutional law experts and had solicited input from various constituencies across the business.
“There hasn’t been any substantial engagement with specific religious groups to-date. Our intention is to engage with employees directly on any religious and/or health-related concerns they may have in relation to vaccination. The appeals and exemption process is specifically designed to consider the employee’s health, religious and other legal rights and seek to balance these with the rights of all employees across the group, and the operational needs of the business,” he said.
Whelan said Discovery would also do everything possible to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who were unable to vaccinate.