Covid-19 Update 76: Council approves Wits Covid-19 Mandatory Vaccination Policy
- Senior Executive Team
Read the full statement, the policy, and the Q&A information document wherein Wits experts answer questions about vaccination, legal, ethical, and more.
The Council of the University of the Witwatersrand discussed and approved the Wits COVID-19 Vaccination Policy at its meeting on 25 November 2021, following engagements with the Wits community over several weeks. These engagements will continue as the course of the pandemic becomes clearer. The Policy will be implemented from 1 January 2022 and will be reviewed regularly. Staff and students will have from 1 January 2022 to 1 March 2022 to either vaccinate or apply for reasonable accommodation. An implementation plan is being developed and this information will be shared with the Wits community as soon as it is available.
Summary of the Wits Covid-19 Vaccination Policy
All members of the University community will be required to vaccinate against COVID-19 in order to access the University’s precincts, aside from those who have been granted reasonable accommodation.
The purpose of the Policy is to enable the return of employees and students to the University’s precincts whilst protecting the health and safety of the University community, and all others who work, live, learn, and/or participate in activities on campus.
The vaccination of employees and students will enable optimal access and the functioning of the University, including the delivery of teaching and learning, and the conducting of research. This is particularly pertinent for students who, due to their socioeconomic circumstances, benefit more readily from learning on campus, and those whose learning programmes require in-person engagement for pedagogic and professional reasons, in line with the 2022 Blended Teaching and Learning Plan.
Wits also plans to re-invigorate the student experience in 2022 by enabling more on-campus social engagement.
The Wits COVID-19 Vaccination Policy will help to protect the health and safety of the University community and the broader public. The University will make provision for the vaccination of employees and students on campus and at dedicated sites in 2022.
COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be safe and highly effective in reducing the risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19), in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, and in reducing the spread of the virus.
In balancing the collective rights of the broader University and surrounding community to health and safety, against individual rights to bodily integrity, freedom of religion, belief and opinion which may be limited in terms of Section 36 of the Constitution, our view, supported by experts, is that the collective right takes precedence. This is in the broader public interest and is reasonable, justifiable and rational.
- All members of the University community must be vaccinated regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past. Everyone will be required to comply with the relevant national and Wits COVID-19 safety protocols, including the wearing of masks. A vaccination site will also be established on campus.
- Those who are not vaccinated and have been granted reasonable accommodation will be required to comply with additional protocols like daily health screening and weekly antigen testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection, irrespective of whether they are symptomatic or not (Wits will cover costs of those unable to pay for the first few months).
- Staff and students who are not vaccinated and who have been granted reasonable accommodation, may also be limited from participating in certain University activities. For example, they may not be allow to participate in activities in common spaces where social engagements occur; to attend certain academic activities and/or graduations; and will not be allowed to secure accommodation in any University-owned residences.
Implementation of the Wits Covid-19 Vaccination Policy
A Wits COVID-19 Vaccination Policy Implementation Committee is being established. The Committee will develop an implementation plan that will include details of how the Policy will be effected, how access to campuses will work, how to apply for reasonable accommodation, etc. This information will be shared with the Wits community as soon it becomes available. There will also be ongoing engagement with staff and students to clarify aspects of the Policy and its implementation.
Access to Campus
The University can refuse access to campus to any person who has not been vaccinated and/or who has not been reasonably accommodated. Vaccinated members of the University will provide proof of their vaccination status, which will be linked to their staff or student profile to enable seamless access to the University’s precincts. Visitors will have to produce their EVDS certificate confirming their vaccination status before being permitted access to campuses.
Employees and students who cannot be vaccinated on medical grounds, or choose not to be vaccinated on Constitutional grounds, must apply for, and be granted reasonable accommodation between 1 January 2022 and 1 March 2022. If reasonable accommodation is denied, staff and students can appeal to the Mandatory Vaccination Appeals Committee.
Should these appeals be denied, the University reserves the right not to register students, to defer studies, and in respect of staff to address the matter in line with the University’s policies and procedures, and relevant labour laws. Employees will not be entitled to refuse to return to work on the basis of not having been vaccinated.
Access the vaccine implementation website here.
Covid-19 Vaccination Questions and Answers
Two webinars and several dedicated meetings were held in recent weeks to engage on the Wits COVID-19 Vaccination Policy. A panel of experts, including a vaccinologist, scientists, clinicians, lawyers and ethics specialists responded to questions from members of the Wits community on vaccines, the proposed policy, and other areas. The questions and answers have been clustered and can be viewed on the Wits COVID-19 portal or via this Q&A link. Experts did not respond to questions from anonymous sources.
Watch this video that may help to answer some vaccination concerns.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM
26 NOVEMBER 2021