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Vaccine: YES or NO

Can you be forced to get vaccinated against COVID-19, regarding work? With a vaccine expected in SA at about the 4th month in 2021, there is an absence of law that mandates inoculation of the entire SA population against COVID-19.

The Rising Sun interviewed legal experts on these legal precedents and asked the following questions: should employers consider mandatory vaccination policies? How does an employer deal with employees or applicants for employment who refuse to be vaccinated? Are personal beliefs regarding vaccinations, such as veganism, a legitimate reason to refuse a mandatory vaccination policy?

SA has no specified policy of compulsory vaccinations, except for yellow fever vaccinations in specified international travel. The vaccination schedule prescribed for children is only encouraged by the Department of Health but here is no legal requirement for parents to vaccinate children as prescribed. Mandatory employer vaccination will accordingly be legally defined against the backdrop of the SA constitution. Section 12(2) of the constitution provides that ‘everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to security in and control over their body’. But, say the legal experts, patient autonomy is not absolute, as the constitution permits limitation of rights in terms of a law of general application – the constitution protects your basic and exclusive rights.

If vaccines against the COVID-19 becomes mandatory, employees can refuse on the following grounds: Medical reasons for those in high-risk categories or compromised immune systems. Safety concerns: employees who are relatively younger and do not require a vaccine on the advice of medical professionals. You can refuse on religious, cultural or philosophical reasons. What our law says: in the SA context of labour and safety and legal applications, every employer has an obligation to ensure a safe workplace. A section of the constitution states that ”The right to bodily integrity can therefore be limited, provided such limitation complies with the constitution requirements. This becomes relevance to employers where the State does not implement a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination law.

The Western Cape High Court ruled that decision to ban cigarettes during SA’s coronavirus lockdown was unconstitutional, and that regulation 45 of the Disaster Management Act – under which the tobacco prohibition was effected – “cannot and does not withstand constitutional scrutiny”.

When your driver’s licence card expires, it does not mean that your licence has expired as well. Whether your licence card expired 5 years ago, or 5 days, you still pay the same price with no penalties.