Decision by Rhodes University Council on vaccination

Rhodes University Council approves the Senate recommendation for a vaccination mandate rule to enable the resumption of face-to-face university activities including teaching, learning and research

On October 19, Rhodes University Council considered and approved a recommendation by Senate for a vaccine mandate rule in terms of which a valid and acceptable form of evidence of COVID-19 vaccination with a vaccine that is approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) will be a condition for access to the campus in 2022.

Based on an analysis of the law and information drawn from the higher education sector, it was submitted that having assessed risks, Rhodes University had a responsibility to ensure that employees and students are protected and that all the necessary precautionary measures are in place.

The special meeting of Council was convened as the University prepares for the full return of students and staff in 2022. The vaccination requirement also applies as a condition for registration for all students, as well as for staff working on campus, service providers and visitors.

A recommendation for an exemption application process and an alternative health status process for those who cannot take the vaccine on medical or other legitimate and justifiable grounds, was also approved. The University is considering the team that will evaluate all applications for exemption.

Key considerations at the meeting revolved around the importance of the resumption of face-to-face university activities and the need to mitigate safety and health risks to students, staff, service providers and members of the community of Makhanda.

Council decided, after balancing the relevant, competing constitutional rights, that the University had a responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety, health and well-being of all who access and come into contact with members of the University.

The vaccination mandate rule provides for the consideration of special exemptions in appropriate circumstances. Where such applications are successful, the University will consider steps to mitigate risk, including the requirement to produce a negative COVID-19 test result on a weekly basis. This would be at the cost of the student, staff member, visitor or service provider concerned in specific circumstances.

Council agreed that the purpose of the limitations to access is to reduce onwards transmission, reduce the risk of ongoing mutations, relieve the pressure on the limited health facilities in the city, protect healthcare workers, and to mitigate the risk of severe disease, hospitalisation and death.

The decision took into account competing constitutional rights, including the individual right to bodily integrity, as well as various statutory provisions, towards securing an effective face-to-face teaching and learning and research in a safe environment. The decision also considered a safe working environment.

Besides the requirement for digital vaccination certificates or vaccination cards upon entering campus, workers will be permitted paid time off to get vaccinated.  Sick leave will also be permitted should someone experience side effects associated with the vaccine.

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