Vaccination is still not mandatory in South Africa although not having a vaccination certificate or passport could leave those who are not inoculated unable to attend major events and travel.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday that government is looking at introducing the vaccine passport system, to provide evidence of vaccination.
The announcement has been met with mixed reactions from the public.
“We will also be providing further information, on an approach for vaccine passports which can be used as evidence of vaccination for various purposes and events. So that as people go around, they are able to demonstrate that yes they have been vaccinated,” says Ramaphosa.
Currently, after getting vaccinated, residents are given a vaccination card and a text message as proof of vaccination.
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Dr Lesley Bamford from the Department of Health says while the certificate is sufficient for domestic use, the documentation might not be enough for international travel.
“This is an area that is still evolving and it’s still work in process and there are still lots of decisions that still need to be made. Anyone who is vaccinated received a vaccination card and an SMS and in many instances, those are considered sufficient as proof of vaccination. However, for international travel, some countries are not satisfied with that level of documentation. We are involved in a process together with Dirco, talking to different countries on the issue of what they will accept on the purpose of entry into those countries,” says Bamford.
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The passport could also be a ticket to large sporting events and festivals, as is already the case in some countries.
Bamford says South Africa needs to look into the same model to encourage more people to vaccinate. He says they are looking at a variety of mechanisms to either provide a certificate electronically, through cellphones or other means.
“We do have some ideas and it is likely that there will be a digital certificate available in coming weeks. But many of the details around the exact format are still being discussed. From the government side, vaccination is still not mandatory. We are strongly encouraging people to vaccinate because is it safe and effective. We are now starting to think about the possibility of stadiums and other events provided that people are vaccinated,” says Bamford.
Meanwhile, Lucky Ntimane from the Liquor Traders Association, says it is premature for government to introduce vaccine passports, while the process of getting more people to take the jab is still ongoing.
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‘Scare tactics won’t yield results’
Ntimane says scare tactics and bullying from government will not yield positive results.
“It’s quite premature to try and implement and it sends the wrong message when you are going to use a negative approach when you are trying to get people to vaccinate by instilling fear. We feel that the best approach is to talk to people that are hesitant and show the positive reasons as to why it is important to vaccinate,” says Ntimane.
Liqour Traders support vaccinations, but say the certificate will once again impact on the alcohol industry.
“Liquor traders are the worst hit when it comes to the pandemic, so we feel that there are better ways to try and get liquor traders, our patrons, our customers to vaccinate and more especially men, through pushing the right message. But pushing the vaccination certificates and passports is quite premature for this country,” says Ntimane.
There are mixed views from some Joburg residents.
“No, I’m not happy because they haven’t found the HIV cure and in a short time they find the vaccine. The president was talking; at first, he said that it is not compulsory. Now, they are forcing us to take the vaccine. In the UK they already have that passport. I think it’s a good idea but a waste of time,” says one resident.
The Department of Health says currently seven million people have been fully vaccinated. However, more needs to be done to convince those still skeptical about the vaccine.
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