Business Unity South Africa (Busa) plans to approach the high court for more clarity on the introduction of a compulsory Covid-19 vaccine mandate by South African companies.
Busa wants a declarative order to help employers and employees understand exactly what the law allows in terms of imposing a mandatory vaccine.
Busa CEO Cas Coovadia said while companies could introduce mandatory vaccinations, they had to apply for an explicit permit and could not force staff to vaccinate.
Employers will also have to find alternative positions for staff who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons.
Coovadia said the demand for vaccinations is expected to increase significantly by the end of the year.
Busa’s legal bid comes after the University of Cape Town (UCT), Wits and Rhodes announced plans to introduce mandatory immunisation policies for students and staff.
Other major employers, such as Discovery and Curro, have also indicated they may introduce mandatory vaccinations for staff. Discovery has gone as far as blocking entry into its premises to unvaccinated visitors.
Law firm Webber Wenzel has filed papers to clarify issues like blocking the entry of unvaccinated employees and visitors.
The company said there is currently no law requiring all South Africans to be vaccinated, and inoculation remains an option, not a requirement.
Vaccine hesitancy grows
According to the World Health Organization, vaccine hesitancy is growing and becoming one of the major threats to global health.
The GNH Happiness Index, which gauges public sentiment using tweets, found the global positive attitude around vaccines is on a downward trend and has decreased by more than 8% from 1 February 2021 until 1 August 2021.
While analysis for South Africa is still ongoing, the team found negative emotions on the subject were directed more towards the rollout process than the vaccine itself.
People still fear the vaccine and fake news plays a role, but the procurement of the vaccine and corruption-related was feuling vaccine hesitancy.
Some examples of negative tweets:
- “With an incompetent government, a Minister of Health without a medical degree, NDZs dictatorial tendencies &; a rural population still totally unaware of what a pandemic is added to a vaccine shortage, we are doomed”
- “We are bored about 1) corruption 2) poor vaccine strategy 3) terrible national government 4) incompetent cabinet 5) stealing during a pandemic!”
The results were similar in other countries.
“The decreasing trend in the positive attitude is not only related to a negative attitude towards the vaccine itself but also due to other factors,” said Prof Talita Greyling from the University of Johannesburg.
In the European countries, restrictions that limit the freedom of the unvaccinated also played a role in decreasing positive attitudes.
Policymakers need to address these factors if they want to change attitudes
- People still fear the side-effects of the vaccine, therefore it is of utmost importance to continue informing people about the vaccine to build trust.
- It seems that people are weighing up the benefits of being vaccinated and complying with regulations to curb the spread of the disease. Those feeling at risk to contract Covid-19 and are unwilling to comply, opt to be vaccinated.
- Dissatisfaction with governments handling of the vaccine rollout and in the Northern hemispheres, limiting the freedom of those not vaccinated, plays a big role in decreasing the positive attitude towards vaccines.
- The more liberal the vaccine policies and the more groups allowed to be vaccinated, the more positive the attitudes towards vaccines.
- A decrease in the number of Covid cases increases the attitude towards the vaccine.
- An increase in the number of vaccines administered increases the positive attitude.
- Addressing fake news and messages by anti-vaxxers on social media increases positive attitudes towards vaccines.
Compiled by Narissa Subramoney