South Africa vaccine pass
Orlando Stadium (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
  • Almost a quarter of all South African adults have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
  • But despite the jab now being open to all adults, the rollout is still struggling to reach its target of 300,000 daily doses administered.
  • Government is not thinking of making the vaccine mandatory.
  • Instead, it plans to open soccer stadiums and nightclubs to those who can prove they’ve been fully vaccinated as a form of “encouragement”.
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The South African government is looking at ways of encouraging citizens to get vaccinated against Covid-19. These incentives won’t be financial in nature – because the country simply can’t afford it – and will, instead, rely on granting special access to soccer stadiums, nightclubs, and other social gatherings.

Almost a quarter of South Africa’s adult population has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. And while the uptake in daily vaccinations has increased since the rollout’s expansion to those aged 18 and over on 20 August, it still hasn’t managed to breach the short-term target of 300,000 daily jabs set by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“In terms of capacity, I want to assure South Africans that we are ready, all that we need is your arms to come through so that we [can] inject you,” Minister of Health Dr. Joe Phaahla said during a site visit to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital on Friday morning.

“As much as we would wish [for] more to come forward, we have the capacity with all the sites to actually do what the president has set between 300,000 and 400,000 vaccinations a day. So far, the highest we have reached… I think on one day [was] even 290,000.”

And while the heated discussion around mandatory vaccinations is something the government is not willing to entertain at this stage, Phaahla said that there were ongoing discussions around practical ways of “encouraging” South Africans to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“At this stage it’s not our priority to even start thinking about some kind of legislation or regulation which says [that] every adult must vaccinate… so we’ll observe that debate [but] we don’t want to get involved,” said Phaahla.

“But, on our side, what we are discussing… it’s more encouragement, that’s what we are focusing on. Amongst [these] encouragements is to give some nice goodies. As we go towards Christmas, people want some presents… but we’re not talking about a cash pay-out. No, no, I know the US government can offer $100 for that [but] we don’t have that kind of money.”

Instead, the government’s plan of encouragement and incentivisation focuses primarily on access to sporting events, entertainment venues, and other social gatherings for those who can prove they’ve been fully vaccinated. Under the varying levels of lockdown which have been imposed over the past 17 months, access to matches at stadiums and nightclubs have remained strictly prohibited.

“What we’re looking at, is are there other soft kind of incentives. For instance… people are hungry for entertainment, for music festivals, to go to Orlando stadium to go and watch a soccer match,” said Phaahla.

“So, what we are exploring is the possibility where, with some kind of confirmation that you have been vaccinated, we could start up opening up various activities, sports, cultural, and more businesses and other get-togethers. To say, if you are vaccinated, so many people can go to the soccer stadium to watch a match. If you are vaccinated and you can prove that, so many people can go to Newtown to enjoy some music.”

“Those kinds of things, that’s what we’re looking at as incentives so that there can be a benefit [for people] not just that I’m saving my life but I can start to access more and more activities because of the fact that I’m vaccinated.”

Phaahla added that proposals tabled to government, with input from the department of sport, arts and culture, would be finalised “in the next few days or so”.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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