Professional medical and scientific organisations and institutions have distanced themselves from last week’s statement by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) that warned against imposing mandatory Covid-19 vaccination on employees and students.  They have also called on the CGE to immediately withdraw the statement that raised concerns about a study that found some Covid-19 vaccines may cause a temporary change in the length of the menstrual cycle

The aggrieved group include SAMA, the South African Private Practitioners Forum (SAPPF), the South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. (SASOG), the South African Paediatrics Association (SAPA), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the Progressive Health Forum (PHF), the President of Nuclear Medicine Research Infrastructure (NUMERI), the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).

They expressed their profound concern at the contents of the CGE’s statement, which they stressed, are at variance with the accepted scientific knowledge regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.

“This concern is deepened by the fact that a Chapter 9 institution like the CGE, which wields enormous influence in society, may, unknowingly or otherwise, fuel anti-vaccination sentiment and compromise the national vaccination programme, as well as efforts to overcome the COVID 19 pandemic, the bodies say in a statement.

“The Commission seemingly disregards the fact that pregnant women (and their unborn babies) are at a much greater risk of dying if they are unvaccinated. It fails to appreciate that one-in-six unvaccinated pregnant women admitted to hospital in South Africa with COVID-19 infection requires mechanical ventilation and one in sixteen has a fatal outcome.

COVID-19 vaccination, on the other hand, provides upwards of 80% protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death,” they added.

Endorsing a statement by the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of South Africa on the matter, the group emphasised that the research cited therein is of the highest quality and emphasises that the relatively rare effect of a slightly longer menstrual cycle is temporary, harmless and has no effect on menstrual health, fertility and reproductive health.

“The evidence is indisputable. COVID-19 vaccination is safe, does not affect women’s bodies negatively and saves women’s lives,” they state.

They point out that vaccine mandates, including the constitutionality thereof are the subject of deep scrutiny by a range of institutions and sectors

“We, therefore, take issue with the Commission trying to bolster its argument by wrongly insinuating that COVID-19 vaccination has the potential to harm women’s health.

“While the Commission is at liberty to express itself on the matter of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and how this may impinge on constitutional rights, it should, as a responsible and respected public institution, confine itself to the known scientific facts of the effects of vaccination and should not conflate selective scientific references with its position on vaccine mandates,” they add.

They say by misinterpreting the medical consequences of a slight lengthening of the menstrual cycles in a very small number of women following vaccination, among the billions of women who have been vaccinated worldwide, the Commission’s statement inappropriately creates confusion and fear in the minds of women who have been vaccinated and is likely to increase vaccine hesitancy among women.

“The Commission’s assertion COVID-19 vaccinations could have long term harmful effects on reproductive and sexual health, in the absence of medical evidence to support such a contention, is, accordingly, strenuously repudiated,” they concluded.