With the majority of the Wits community vaccinated, it seems the university has been able to successfully implement its vaccine policy within a short number of weeks.   

After a month of the Wits Mandatory Vaccination (MVax) Policy being in effect, Wits University says its rules and regulations have been implemented with a substantial amount of success, and the policy is moving in the right direction.  

Scott Smalley, coordinator of the Wits Vaccination and Testing Site, says “There have not been any major concerns or issues pertaining to the policy or its implementation, as the majority of members of the community are vaccinating.” The figures indeed speak for themselves, as one month after the March 1, 2022 implementation date, over 90% of those who access Wits campuses are now vaccinated, according to an announcement by the university.  

The MVax Policy, within the past month, has mandated vaccination by all members of the university community in order for them to access any university precinct. Those granted Reasonable Accommodation, according to the policy, are required to take ”weekly antigen testing for Sars-CoV-2 infection irrespective of whether employees and students are symptomatic for covid-19 or not”.

Reasonable Accommodation can be granted only by faculty registrars or line managers, who review applicants including ”employees and students who cannot be vaccinated on medical grounds, or choose not to be vaccinated on constitutional grounds”. Also implemented was the daily covid screening tool, which must be completed by each person entering campus.    

There was, however, some confusion regarding screening. First-year architecture student Leah Saib says the university was strict in the beginning but, as time went on, they just ”stopped doing it”. 

Smalley says, ”The daily covid-19 screening tool is to be completed by each person entering campus to inform them if they can enter campus or not. Persons are not to enter campus if they have symptoms or have tested positive for covid-19.” He further states, “The campus protection officers do spot checks to determine if people are complying.” This means they randomly select people, and by doing so ensure that everyone is completing the screening in case they were to be randomly picked. 

“With the ending of the [National State of Disaster] this week, the screening tool may no longer be required,” Smalley says, but did not say when this will be implemented. Regarding campus access, he says Wits student and staff cards are blocked if there is no verified vaccination certificate or negative antigen result uploaded to the MVax portal.   

The university has mandated vaccination for students and staff to have access to the university.  Photo: Elishevah Bome

According to Smalley, more than 30 000 vaccine certificates have been uploaded to date. Further, only 1% of the total Wits community has applied for Reasonable Accommodation. Head of Campus Health and Wellness, Sister Maggie Moloi, says every student living in university residences has been vaccinated. 

As a result of the MVax Policy’s implementation, staff and students have been able to return to physical learning and on-campus activities. First-year biomedical student Akhona Cele says she feels ”safe” on campus, knowing people have been vaccinated or are being tested.  

The SRC health office is also satisfied with the response from the Wits populace to the vaccine drive and with the uploading of vaccination certificates. In a statement to Wits Vuvuzela, SRC health officer Mapula Mohale said the SRC had been engaging with ”various lecturers and faculties to make sure that classes are inclusive and accommodative for everyone”.   

Wits University continues to urge ”the small percentage of students and staff who have not yet vaccinated or applied for Reasonable Accommodation to comply with the Policy,” says Smalley. 

FEATURE IMAGE: Campus protection officers screen the driver of a car entering the university. Photo: Elishevah Bome