THE University of Cape Town is one step closer to making a decision on a vaccine mandate policy after it wrapped up a public participation process.
On Saturday the university’s Council is expected to receive recommendations from the Vaccine Mandate Panel that was set up in November to drive a public consultation process and make representations that will help the institution when deciding whether or not a vaccination policy should be adopted.
This came out after the Council approved, on principle, a proposal that requires all staff and students to provide proof of vaccination in order to access any of the university’s buildings late last year.
On Wednesday afternoon the panel hosted its final engagement with students where its chairperson, Associate Professor Tracey Naledi and her deputy Professor Pierre de Vos gave an overview of their work over the last few months and what amendments had been made to the proposed policy to incorporate the concerns raised.
Naledi said the panel received 1 500 comments from the public and engaged with 2 700 members of staff, Student Representative Council (SRC), residential forums and unions which resulted in 1 800 comments and questions.
“The vast majority of the comments we received were from people who gave negative comments but that is not the view (of the entire university community),” she said.
“This (process) was never to do a representative survey, (in that case) we would have done a random sample. But we invited those who wanted to comment to do so. The voices of those who are pro-vaccine have been silent and that is our view.”
Naledi said the rational behind the vaccine policy was based on the fact that the university was a residential institution that provided primarily face-to-face teaching, training, services and research..
“There is a recognition from everyone within the community that the impact on online teaching on our students and staff has not been great and this impact has been disproportionately placed on students that are most in need,” she said. s
The policy proposes that staff, students and independent contractors and who wish to access the university’s premises must provide a proof of vaccination.
Naledi said exemption from the mandate will be considered on the grounds of medical reasons, religious or other strong beliefs and objections based on Constitutional grounds.
De Vos said “If the university were to impose the vaccine mandate, there is obviously a possibility that it would limit some of the rights, (such as) freedom of religion and conscience, maybe the right to bodily integrity and the right to access to education. So such rights would only be justifiably limited in terms of the Constitution if it is imposed by law of general application.”
De Vos said Counsel will deliberate on the matter this Saturday with the view that if it is adopted, the policy would come into effect on April, 1.