University students’ thoughts on proposed mandatory vaccinations

As vaccinations opens up to more age groups, the topic of mandatory vaccinations has led to fierce debates. One of the spaces where mandatory vaccinations has led to many debates and conversations is at universities. Wits University, University of Cape Town (UCT) and University of the Free State (UFS) are just some of the universities proposing mandatory Covid19 vaccinations. The Daily Vox team spoke to students about the proposal. 


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University of Free State 

UFS wants all its staff and students to be vaccinated by February 2022. Vaccination certificates will be required to gain access to campus. UFS said this is the first step in bringing staff and students back to campus. The university council will decide on the approval in November. The UFS Student Representative Council(SRC) is not in agreement with the mandatory aspect. 

“We want the university to exhaust persuasive measures first,” Jerry Thoka, UFS SRC president said.

Nkala Bucie, a second year UFS student said she doesn’t want to be vaccinated. She said she hopes students will mobilise against it. Bucie said the university has to engage students about the vaccination process. She said it has to be a thorough process, especially when students are sceptical. 

First year UFS student Zanele Mcachongo also expressed hesitancy. Machongo said getting the vaccination should remain a choice not a rule. She said it doesn’t feel right that in order to get educated or employed you need to get vaccinated.  The side effects of the vaccine are different for everyone, she said. 

“Nobody is forced to take ARVs for HIV or PREP which protects you from contracting HIV,” said Machongo. 

Wits University 

The University of the Witwatersrand has proposed a mandatory vaccination programme. It seeks to implement this programme so that staff and students can return to contact teaching. The Wits student representative council (SRC), however, has condemned the university’s decision. In a statement the SRC said they reject any proposal that excludes poor students. This is because the university said any student or staff not vaccinated will need to undergo weekly COVID-19 tests. 

Mohammed Waheed Nabi, a student at Wits University, has agreed with the mandatory vaccination programme. “There needs to be a balance between prioritising the health and safety of the Wits community with possible academic exclusion,” he said. Wits has alluded to the fact that these will be put into place. 

Muzzammil Tayob, a Wits medical student, also agrees with the university’s proposal. According to Tayob, the SRC statement is incorrect – students and staff can be tested for free at a clinic. They will not have to foot the bill themselves. The SRC also posited that the vaccine was risky, said Tayob. This, however, is not the case. “The vaccine is safe,” he explained. 


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Sol Plaatje University

SPU has not proposed compulsory vaccinations yet. They are encouraging students to vaccinate.  

Buza Ndebele, SPU SRC deputy president said mandatory vaccinations have to go through engagement with students. Ndebele said education around vaccinations should be prioritised. Students have questions about the effects of the vaccine, and deserve accurate information, he said.

“I won’t vaccinate till I get satisfactory answers regarding the side-effects and possible complications from the vaccines”, Ndebele said. 

Ndebele said any dialogues should include health specialists who can give accurate answers.

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Reporting by Ling Shepherd and Humairaa Mayet.