Are mandatory vaccinations South Africa’s way out of the COVID-19 pandemic?

As COVID-19 vaccination rates plunge, companies and institutions look to authorise mandatory vaccinations.

South Africa aims to have 70% of the adult population vaccinated by December 2021, however the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rates are below the target of 300 000 per day. One million Gauteng residents have not received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine due to a growing apathy in vaccinations. Business for South Africa said, “In our view, a combination of mandatory vaccination policies, as well as incentives, are going to be necessary alongside the demand generation communications and mobilisation campaign to get as many people as possible vaccinated.” Some of South Africa’s leading companies such as Discovery, Sanlam, Curro and Naspers are looking to introduce mandatory vaccinations as part of their company policies, with Discovery and Sanlam aiming to enforce the policy for all employees by January 2022.

Discussions around mandatory vaccinations have also made their way into academic circles. The University of Witwatersrand has also openly expressed its intent to pursue mandatory vaccinations – extending its invitation for public comment on its proposal until 21 October. “A mandatory vaccination policy protects the health and safety of the university community, members of the public, and advances the public good,” the university framework noted. There have been many concerns from an ethical standpoint that mandatory vaccinations would infringe on human rights and government has stated that it does not intend on making vaccinations mandatory, while also adding that they will not impede on company and institutional policies. While the implementation of mandatory vaccinations is a controversial topic, many argue it might be the key to South Africa reaching heard immunity.