The Minerals Council South Africa and labour unions have urged all industry employees to get vaccinated as soon as they have the opportunity to do so.
The labour unions – the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and Uasa – have, alongside the council, reconfirmed their support for South Africa’s national vaccination programme.
The Minerals Council has also been working closely with Business for South Africa (B4SA) in supporting government’s vaccination roll-out plan and is committed to playing its part in getting as many “jabs in arms” as soon as possible, so that lives and livelihoods can be saved.
After a detailed assessment process, 55 mining sites have applied to register as primary vaccination sites and a further 76 sites as secondary sites.
These sites will cover around 433 000 employees.
In a statement on June 3, the Minerals Council explained that each site has to undergo a very detailed process in order to be registered and that this process is undertaken by the Department of Health (DoH).
Five sites have, so far, received the requisite permits from the DoH, of which one site is currently operational in that it has vaccines and is vaccinating.
Workplace vaccination will be undertaken in line with the national priorities, the council said, explaining that the DoH has adopted a strategy of age-based prioritisation, targeting those most at risk of death and severe illness.
This means that, currently, only the over-60s (around 6 000 industry employees) and remaining healthcare workers are eligible.
The next phase of vaccinations – when the over-50 and over-40 age categories are invited to participate – will be most critical to the industry.
The industry’s vaccination registration process will be integrated with the national Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS), with the only difference from the national campaign being the companies’ ability to bulk upload employee information, and to facilitate scheduling at mine-based sites.
The Minerals Council has confirmed the industry’s intention to support the vaccination of employees and community members and is engaging with the authorities on how this can best be done, either through vaccination centres, or in-kind support.
The Minerals Council has also collaborated with unions in running an intensive communications campaign among employees to get those over 60 registered and vaccinated, and to encourage all employees to assist their family and community members to get vaccinated, and this is being intensified.
This is further supported by an ongoing massive communication campaign aimed at equipping employees with the information they need to be able to make an informed decision and #ChooseToVaccinate, including information about the vaccine and its benefits, as well as how to deal with potential side effects.
Importantly, however, the Minerals Council emphasised the continuation of non-medical interventions – wearing masks, sanitising and physical distancing, as this remains instilled into preventing the spread of the virus.