“List of employers NOT requiring their employees to get vaccinated,” begins text on a graphic shared more than 13,000 times on Facebook in South Africa.
The White House, the US president’s official residence, tops the list of seven organisations. It’s followed by three major health agencies: the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the World Health Organization, or WHO.
Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, three companies that have produced Covid 19 vaccines, are also named.
“Interesting, veral in die lig daarvan dat sekere SA maatskapye al reeds die jab verpligtend wil maak, nog voor dit wet is...!?” the graphic’s caption reads. This is Afrikaans for: “Interesting, especially in light of the fact that certain SA companies already want to make the jab compulsory, even before it is law ...!?”
In June 2021, South Africa’s labour minister Thulas Nxesi laid out a “three-step enquiry” to be followed by employers considering making vaccines mandatory for staff.
About a month later, on 18 August, South Africa’s independent Curro school network announced that all staff would have to be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
And in a move described as “bold”, the country’s giant insurance and finance company Discovery followed suit by saying it would start requiring staff to be vaccinated from early 2022.
Debate about whether mandatory employee vaccination is ethical and legal continues. But many countries have made it a requisite, especially for healthcare workers and high risk people.
Is the vaccine really not required for employees at the seven organisations listed in the graphic? We investigated.
US federal employees must vaccinate
At the time the post was shared in South Africa, 2 September 2021, vaccines were not mandatory for US federal employees. This includes the White House, the CDC and the FDA – all federal organisations.
On 29 July, US president Joe Biden said that all federal employees and federal contractors would have to “attest to their vaccination status.”
Those who were unvaccinated would be required to wear a mask at all times at work, test once or twice a week, social distance and would not be allowed to travel for work.
But on 9 September Biden signed two executive orders mandating that all federal employees and contractors must be vaccinated.
“We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us," he said in a televised announcement.
Biden has also already been fully vaccinated.
World Health Organization staff not required to get jab
WHO employees do not have to be vaccinated. In a policy brief shared in April 2021, the organisation said it did not endorse or oppose mandatory staff vaccination.
“Governments and/or institutional policy-makers should use arguments to encourage voluntary vaccination against Covid-19 before contemplating mandatory vaccination,” the brief reads.
“Stricter regulatory measures should be considered only if these means are not successful.”
Vaccine companies mandate employee vaccination
In a statement to US news agency CNBC, Pfizer said all its US employees and contractors must be vaccinated, or be tested weekly. The company also encouraged its international branches to do the same.
Moderna mandated that all US staff be vaccinated by 1 October 2021, according to a company press release.
USA Today, a US media organisation, fact-checked a similar post shared across social media in the US. Johnson & Johnson spokesperson Lisa Cannellos told them that all employees must be fully vaccinated by 4 October.
But all of these companies said that staff who have religious and medical reasons not to be vaccinated will be accommodated.
Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are both approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Board, or Sahpra. The board has not received an application for Moderna.
What about AstraZeneca, also approved in South Africa?
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has also been approved by Sahpra.
The government initially decided not to use the AstraZeneca vaccine due to its inefficiency against the Beta variant of Covid-19, at the time spreading in the country.
On 30 July 2021 deputy health minister Joe Phaahla said they were reconsidering because new research showed effectiveness against the Delta variant. But the vaccine has not been used in South Africa yet.
We checked anyway, in case of future use, and found that AstraZeneca employees in the US are required to be vaccinated.
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