Telecom giant, MTN Group has said it will be implementing a mandatory vaccination policy for all its staff with effect from January 2022.
This comes amid growing concerns over Omicron variant first detected in South Africa a fortnight ago.
MTN Group President and Chief Executive Officer Ralph Mupita who announced the decision in a statement on Monday, said it was to protect the health and safety of people and workplaces.
He said the science of vaccination is clear as it reduces rates of serious infections, hospitalisation, and death.
“As an employer, we have a responsibility to ensure that our workplaces are guided by the highest standards of health and safety, and that has informed our decision to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for our staff,” he noted.
“Our new COVID-19 policy recognises that some of our markets don’t have adequate access to vaccines. It also recognises some low-risk roles that will be accommodated with full-time work-from-home or alternate arrangements, but this will be a small population within our workforce.”
According to him, both the World Health Organisation, WHO, and the Africa Centres for Disease Control, advocate vaccines, saying that they were an important measure to protect people.
He maintained that the global rollout of vaccinations since 2020 had clearly contributed to the containment and management of the virus in many countries.
“Vaccine equity continues to be a major issue for African countries. As MTN, we add our voice to the calls for more vaccines to be made available to African countries, as herd immunity will only happen when the whole globe has reached a sufficient level of COVID-19 vaccination.
“The latest travel bans on African countries by developed nations are not based on science, are unjust and add to the lack of support for Africa that is much needed for an effective global response to the pandemic. African countries are being punished for the very transparency that’s actually needed to successfully combat the impact on lives and livelihoods of the COVID-19 virus,’’ he said.
Noting that the latest data showed that across the continent, only seven per cent of Africans had been fully vaccinated, compared to a global population vaccination rate of 55 per cent, Mupita said: “The fight against COVID-19 needs a global, comprehensive and equitable allocation of vaccines.”
He added that the MTN Group’s new vaccine policy is a measure to meet MTN’s legal obligations in regard to providing a safe workplace and shall be subject to risk assessment and local laws that apply to the MTN Group and our operating companies and subsidiaries.
“It also recognises the right of employees to apply to be exempted from the policy and/or refuse vaccination on certain clearly defined grounds.
“For those staff who are not exempt from vaccinations either through risk assessment or agreed to exclusions but still refuse vaccination, MTN will not be obliged to continue the employment contract.”
The new mandatory vaccination policy follows the Group’s US$25 million donations to the African Union’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.