The following plan envisaged by the South African Government depends on the availability of vaccines of which there is a global shortage at the moment. The government has procured vaccinations from Pfizer BioNTech (two doses required) and Johnson & Johnson (one dose required).
4 April 2021:
The Sisonke Trial commenced (phase 1 - 17 February 2021) with about 270,000 healthcare workers being vaccinated with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The study will cover 500,000 of the 1 to 1.25 million workers within the healthcare sector.
10 April 2021:
The last 200,000 free Johnson & Johnson vaccines will arrive on 10 April as part of the Sisonke trial.
The second half of April 2021:
1 million paid-for Johnson & Johnson vaccines will arrive in the second half of April 2021. The healthcare workers who had not been covered by the Sisonke trial will be vaccinated first.
Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout plan commenced on 17 May 2021. People over the age of 60 will get their turn to be vaccinated during this phase. Registration for vaccination opened 16 April 2021 on the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS). Government plans on vaccinating 50,000 high-risk people per day during phase 2. Next will be people with comorbidities and other high-risk groups.
Registration for phase 2 vaccination: https://vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za/#/
April - June 2021:
6.75 million two-dose Pfizer BioNTech vaccines are expected to arrive between April and June 2021. The exact dates are not known at this stage. 5.5 million of these have been ordered from Pfizer and 1.25 million will comes via COVAX.
Minister of health Zweli Mkhize said another 900,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines will arrive in May. In June another 900,000 will be delivered and a further 9 million in July 2021. If all goes according to schedule, this means that South Africa will have 11.8 million Johnson & Johnson jabs by the end of July.
July - Early 2022:
Another 19.2 million Johnson & Johnson and 13.25 million Pfizer doses are expected between July and early 2022.
In November, everyone else (those who are 18 years and older) will get their turn to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
It is Government's target to have all adults vaccinated by February 2022. This is about 41 million people.
Total vaccines by early 2022: Johnson & Johnson - 31.5 million doses, and Pfizer BioNTech - 20 million doses.
Employers have an obligation to create vaccination awareness in the working environment.
Why do vaccines matter?
Scientific evidence indicates that vaccination is the best defense against serious infections. Vaccines do not give you the virus but teach your immune system to recognise and fight the infection thereby reducing the risk of infection or the severity of symptoms. Vaccines have reduced the morbidity and mortality of infectious diseases such as smallpox, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, measles, tetanus, whooping cough, and pneumococcal conjugate across the world. Vaccinating enough people also creates herd immunity and prevents the spread of the disease.
Does anyone have to pay for the vaccine?
Individuals that do not have private health insurance will receive the vaccines for free and insured individuals will be covered by their medical aid. Therefore, even if you are a member of a health plan, you will not incur any administration costs.
Can anyone be forced to vaccinate?
At this stage, there is no law that required persons to be vaccinated and the Minister of Health has indicated that the COVID-19 vaccine will not be obligatory.
South African employment legislation does not regulate when an employer may require an employee to undergo medical treatment. In terms of section 6 of the National Health Act 2003, health services may not be provided to a user without the user’s consent and consent should be informed, specific, and voluntarily given. The Act does however make provision for exceptions where the failure to treat the individual will result in a serious risk to public health.
It is important to remember the Occupational Health and Safely Act 1993, requires an employer to provide and maintain a safe working environment both for its employees and other persons who have access to its premises such as its clients.
It is therefore recommended that employers educate employees on the vaccine and encourage them to be vaccinated, rather than making it a mandatory policy.
Return2Work and partners have created visual, audio, and written tools to assist businesses, employers, and employees to re-open and remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The tools incorporate key legal requirements to minimise infection and maximise compliance. Use the workplace educational videos to raise awareness about staying safe.