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Digital vaccination certificate not a discrimination tool

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Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla has refuted claims that the planned COVID-19 vaccine certificates will be used to deny unvaccinated citizens access to public services.

This comes after growing concerns from the South African public and human rights organisations that the enforcement of the vaccination certificates could raise ethical concerns and entrench inequity in society, by favouring vaccinated citizens over the unvaccinated.

As COVID-19 vaccination ramps up in many parts of the world, some countries have started to introduce or implement COVID-19 vaccine certificates, a single document issued to all those who have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

Addressing the nation last week, president Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that vaccinated South Africans may soon be able to demonstrate their vaccination status with a digital vaccine passport.

Speaking on Friday at his department’s weekly briefing on the pandemic and the vaccination rollout, Phaahla explained that while COVID-19 vaccine certificates may be required to access certain social events, they will not be used to alienate citizens from accessing public services.

“I want to emphasise that this certificate will not prevent people from accessing essential services, especially public services. You will not be required to show a certificate to get to the clinic. I have heard claims that we want to deny people services. That is not going to happen. What this is meant for is to say that you can open up more economic and recreational activities.”

Phaahla announced that an implementation plan for the vaccination certificates will be presented to the National Coronavirus Command Council within the next 10 days.

The certificate will be accessible through a smartphone, but those who do not own a smartphone will be able to receive a printed version of the certificate at their vaccination site, he noted.

To date, 13.2% of South Africans have been vaccinated – 15.7million administered vaccine doses and 7.7 million citizens who are fully vaccinated.

Petitions have already been established in the US and UK to try to stop those governments’ vaccine certificate and passport policies, with activists raising concerns that the introduction of such programmes attests to the fact that vaccination will be regulated and enforced upon all citizens.

They have raised concerns that unvaccinated citizens will be excluded from participation in numerous activities and that employers may not allow the unvaccinated to return to the office.

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