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South Africans Protest Against Proposed Vaccine Passports

FILE - An health care worker administers a jab containing Pfizer vaccine on a caregiver of the SAVF Evanna Tehuis old age home near Klerksdorp, May 19, 2021.

Protests are increasing in South Africa against a possible proposed government vaccine passport which would limit access to work places and public events for people who refuse to get a vaccine shot.

To reach its target to vaccinate 40 million South Africans by the end of the year, many in government want to pass legislation which would mandate coronavirus vaccination.

Officially, the government says it’s not going to force people to get the jab. But sources close to President Cyril Ramaphosa tell VOA it’s only a matter of time before a policy of mandatory vaccination kicks in.

After an initial rush to vaccinate, the number of people getting the jab has dropped dramatically. Only half of South Africans ages 50 to 59 — an age group highly vulnerable to serious COVID-19 — have had their shots.

The health department says 10.5 million people in South Africa have been fully immunized so far. Some South Africans refuse to get vaccinated.

Rev. Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, organized protests around the country this weekend against mandatory vaccinations. He says he and many other Christians don’t trust the vaccines.

“Why should I subject myself to something that was not tested on animals,” Meshoe said. “Only what’s been tested on animals can go into my body, if necessary. But I don’t want to be a guinea pig.”

Meshoe said he doesn’t believe the science behind the vaccines and is against a vaccine mandate for all citizens.

“I’ve never and I don’t think ACDP members would say nobody should be vaccinated, nobody was assisted by the vaccine," he said. "Nobody has said that. What we don’t agree with, is the use of force.”

Scientists says the vaccines are extremely effective in preventing acute illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Despite research that backs the vaccines, South Africa’s health department says millions of people remain “vaccine hesitant.”

Martin Kingston, chairman of Business for South Africa which represents thousands of private enterprises in the country, says there is a more efficient way to get more jabs in arms.

“We have the vaccines," Kingston said. "We have the facilities. We can go to people’s premises to the extent that it’s necessary to vaccinate them. The issue is, of course, one of demand. We need to generate as much demand as we can.”

Kingston said that one way to promote vaccinations is encouraging employers and private establishments to consider mandating vaccinations.

“We think that the combination of those factors should certainly drive up the level of vaccination and hopefully to try and get to the targets that we’ve already agreed are necessary by the end of the year,” Kingston said.