Business For South Africa (B4SA) this week discussed the legalities, policies and practicalities of mandatory Covid-19 vaccines in the workplace.
Mandatory vaccines in South Africa
Workplace vaccination policies
Several of South Africa’s leading companies “have announced their intention to introduce mandatory vaccination policies within their organisations”, B4SA said.
The debate around this matter is growing both in South Africa and globally.
The group, which describes itself as “an alliance of South African volunteers working with the South African government”, held a webinar with a panel of experts to “explore insights generated by Discovery Health, Sanlam and Life Healthcare, whom have all adopted mandatory vaccination policies”.
Watch: Mandatory vaccines webinar
Some of the considerations discussed included such policies becoming commonplace in many countries. Australia, for example, made vaccinations mandatory for high-risk, aged care workers.
In Canada, federal public servants – including travellers and staff at long-term care homes – would soon be required to show proof of vaccination as well.
Indonesia has already made vaccines mandatory since February, with fines of up to 5 million rupiahs (R5,230) for those who fail to comply.
Mandatory vaccinations are also commonplace for employees of Google, Netflix, Facebook, Walmart, Disney, Morgan Stanley and BlackRock.
In South Africa, Sanlam, Rhino Africa, UNB, Curro and Discovery have all adopted mandatory policies as well.
Why are mandatory vaccines required?
Discovery’s Dr Ron Whelan said: “In-depth consideration of the organisation’s moral, social, ethical and legal obligations; culture, purpose and values form the backbone of the policy.”
In addition, Covid-19 is considered an “unprecedented health tragedy”, with more than 255,000 deaths in South Africa since May 2020.
Covid-19 vaccinations have proven to be effective in reducing the death rate by 93%, while it curbs infection by up to 80% and admission into ICU by 92%.
Discovery’s vaccine policy
Back in September, Discovery said it intends to implement mandatory vaccination policies for its employees from 1 January 2022, adding that offices would become vax-only zones.
The country’s largest health insurer says this decision is because of the “clear moral and social obligation to enhance and protect their lives”.
During an interview with Peter Ndoro, Bhekisisa editor-in-chief Mia Malan said the majority of SA’s population would need to be vaccinated first before mandatory vaccinations were implemented by government.
“It’s important to note that in South Africa we can’t [force vaccinations] yet. That’s why Discovery and Sanlam say [their mandatory vaccination policy] will be implemented in January.
“Because if you haven’t given everyone a reasonable chance to be vaccinated you can’t start with rule like that. You need to make sure that the rule you implemented is within the context of access… a fair one,” she said.