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Pretoria universities mull mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy

The entrance to the University of Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

The entrance to the University of Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 17, 2022


Pretoria - As the mandatory vaccine debate rages on within the Higher Education and Training sector, Pretoria universities are still weighing the heated decision ahead of the new academic calendar.

The University of Pretoria was still undertaking a consultative process with staff and students, spokesperson Rikus Delport said, and its final position on vaccinations would only be announced once the consultation processes had been completed.

A risk assessment process had identified some areas of operation where vaccination was required, Delport said.

“This risk assessment requirement is informed by science and based on an identified need to protect staff, students and any third parties involved. This ongoing process may identify further areas such as education, or where work-integrated learning poses a real risk to the students and those who interact with them.”

In such situations, he said the university would consider practical steps to accommodate students and staff who elected not to be vaccinated on medical or religious grounds.

Delport said some measures under consideration included for all stakeholders to undertake daily health screening prior to being allowed entry on to campus; and for masks to be worn at all times on campus.

Stakeholders are also to consider ensuring they provided the institution with a weekly negative Covid-19 test at their own cost irrespective of whether or not they had symptoms.

The university would also consider exemptions for medical grounds, as long as confirmation from a medical professional was supplied to the effect that Covid-19 vaccination posed a significant medical risk. This, as well as granting exemptions on religious grounds, Delport said, would be considered by a properly constituted and skilled evaluation panel.

In light of this, the proposal was that unvaccinated individuals would have limited access to certain high-risk areas or events, including participation in sporting activities, social events or visiting friends in residence.

Unisa spokesperson, Victor Dlamini, said there was no current policy that compelled staff and students to vaccinate, but the university encouraged all stakeholders to be willingly vaccinated. For the time being, he said, the university would manage the occupation capacity of its facilities according to Covid-19 protocols.

This would mean the number of students and staff would remain at the set capacity at each campus, with students to utilise the student campus booking app to manage the number of students per facility per day.

Dlamini said the university was now busy with the registration of the first semester, which began on January 4 and is due to close on January 24.

Meanwhile, the Principal and Vice-Chancellor for Sefakho Makgatho Health Sciences University, Professor Peter Mbati, said his institution was still considering mandatory vaccinations and yet to finalise its decision.

Pretoria News