Reitumetse Makwea
Journalist
2 minute read
21 Jul 2022
5:30 am

Universities relax Covid-19 vaccine policies, but students warned to be cautious

Reitumetse Makwea

Rhodes University, the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria have dropped their mask mandate.

A heath worker receives a J&J vaccine booster. Picture: Gallo Images/Die Burger/Jaco Marais

Students should remain cautious of universities’ relaxed Covid vaccine policies as they were not completely scrapped but “still lurking behind closed doors”, activists warned.

Although the University of the Free State (UFS) has decided to drop its mandatory vaccination policy, Wits University, and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) have both “relaxed” theirs, which student activist Kgothatso Rampedi said was not good enough.

“It does not mean these mandates are off the table, it just means they have been put on hold,” he said.

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“Why are they ‘temporarily suspending’ certain measures but insist that the policies remain in place

“Students have been forced to vaccinate just so they can further their education even though they pay fees.”

The Universities Alliance SA (Uasa), which has demanded that universities reconsider and abandon their vaccine mandate policies, has warned students to be cautious as the policies were merely being relaxed, and not altogether cancelled, “meaning that these requirements could return as the university sees fit”.

Rhodes University, the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria had also dropped their mask mandate.

Wits University’s Shirona Patel said the university has temporarily suspended its vaccination policy as from 14 July.

“About 95% of the Wits community is vaccinated and a few hundred out of about 40,000 students and 5,500 permanent staff were granted reasonable accommodation,” she said.

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However, a notice on the university’s website stated the “protocols may change as the virus evolves, as regulations change, and as science develops.”

“We will review our policies, rules and regulations, and in particular our Mandatory Vaccination Policy, based on the best scientific evidence on hand, and following engagements with the relevant structures within the University,” the notice read.

UJ’s Mpiletso Motumi said after consultation with the UJ Council, they relaxed some of their Mandatory Vaccination Policy stipulations, with effect from 24 June.

“UJ has suspended the wearing of masks indoors on campuses; and the presentation of proof of vaccination or a weekly negative PCR test to gain access to our campuses,” she said.

“Should there be an increase in the number of Covid infections and in the resultant risk to our staff, students and third parties, the university may be required to reinstate the suspended measures.”

But UJ security guards claimed it still requesting vaccine certificates and masks.

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