Reitumetse Makwea
Journalist
3 minute read
15 Feb 2022
5:30 am

UJ students fear being deregistered because of vaccine policy

Reitumetse Makwea

Students must be fully vaccinated by 31 March, and partially vaccinated by mid-February.

The University of Johannesburg campus. File image.

Students at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) fear being deregistered before the end of March due to the university’s vaccination policies following a video doing the rounds on social media which showed a UJ security guard refusing entry to students who were not vaccinated.

According to a student who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being expelled, the option to test weekly for Covid might not last long for those who were not vaccinated and did not have medical or religious reasons for not getting the jab.

“Some of us do not have medical or religious reasons, but very personal reasons that do not allow us to make those decisions on our own. And that is not even considered by the university,” she said.

“My mom had the jab and then had some complications. How do I explain just thinking about it gives me anxiety. I worry that vaccinating could prove even more dangerous than ever and how do I communicate that with my parents or the university?”

Another student, who gave his name as Mark Parks, said although he believed vaccines have saved countless lives and that they qualified as a miracle of science, he remain concerned about the known potential and actual risks of the vaccines.

“As well as the unknown risks, whether short-, medium- and long-term.

“So, before I wait for them to deregister me or kick me out, I’m going to look for a university that can accommodate me and allow me to be comfortable in my own choices,” Parks added.

UJ spokesperson Herman Esterhuizen said the deadline for students and staff to provide the institution with their vaccination status before gaining access to any campus or facility, or applying for an exemption was Monday.

ALSO READ: Mandatory vaccines are ‘not the answer’

“If the exemption request is approved, the student will need to present a weekly negative PCR Covid test before being allowed to access any campus or facility.

“If the exemption request is not approved, the student’s access card will not be activated for access to any campus or facility and the conditional registration will be cancelled if not fully vaccinated by 31 March.

“[S]tudents are to be at least partially vaccinated and to have uploaded their vaccination certificates by 14 February 2022 and to be fully vaccinated by 31 March 2022,” Esterhuizen clarified.

At least eight public universities out of 26 have adopted vaccine mandates for students, employees and visitors, while some institutions have chosen a cautious approach by encouraging vaccination rather than imposing mandates.

Tshwane University of Technology spokesperson Phaphama Tshisikhawe said it had not yet finalised its policy on vaccination, but would not be forcing anyone to get the jab and were currently encouraging students and staff to get it through vaccine drives.

Stellenbosch University is also encouraging everyone to get vaccinated as their medical advisory committee recommends it.

The University of Cape Town also encouraged unvaccinated staff and students to apply for an
exemption to the vaccine mandate on narrow medical grounds and on grounds of sincerely and intensely held beliefs grounded in religion and/or conscience.

“Applications will be adjudicated by independent panels and applicants whose applications are rejected will have a right of appeal,” UCT’s Nombuso Shabalala said.

reitumetsem@citizen.co.za