We will be able to vaccinate 150,000 people a day in South Africa: medical aid

Medical aid Bonitas says that is actively preparing for phase 2 of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout as well as a possible third wave.

Lee Callakoppen, principal officer of Bonitas Medical Fund, said that various scenarios have been presented regarding the speed of propagation of the third wave, and the worst assumption is that it will be twice as fast as the second wave.

The best-case scenario is that the virus is 50% more transmissible than the second wave, he said.

“Unfortunately private procurement of the vaccine is currently prohibited but as procurement is opened to other entities, we will take every step to ensure we have access to vaccines for our members,” said Callakoppen.

“We want to mitigate the risks of them contracting Covid-19 as well as getting seriously ill or dying, which is why we are working behind the scenes to ensure we are ready to roll out the vaccine to our eligible members.”

Callakoppen said that Medscheme, Bonitas’ administrator, is engaged and collaborating with the Department of Health, Business for SA, Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) and various industry stakeholders to assist with the rollout from phase 2.

“We are also in the process of requesting accreditation to set up private vaccination centres. This will ease access for our ‘at risk’ members and provide a broader footprint, including remote areas of the country,” he said.

“Our over 10,000 members, who are healthcare workers, have already started the vaccination programme in phase 1.

“There are around 72,000 members who are classified as ‘Essential/Congregate workers’ and 185,000 high risk members who are either over 60 or have comorbidities. We intend to begin the phase 2 rollout as soon as the vaccine is secured.

“Through collaboration with one of our partners, Afrocentric Health, we will be able to administer up to 150,000 vaccinations per day.”

Still some uncertainty 

Callakoppen said that there is still uncertainty around the government’s phase 2 rollout, including definitions around what an ‘essential worker’ is.

“The Department of Health announced from the onset that healthcare workers would be vaccinated in phase 1.

“Phase 2’s priority group would include essential workers, persons in congregated settings, persons 60 years and older and persons over 18 with comorbidities.

“However, it has since been announced that, as a result of a shortage of the acquisition of vaccinations, these groups will be adapted in order of priority.”

Callakoppen said that as it stands on 8 April 2021, these groups include:

“What we have done is to ensure we know, upfront, who our high risk member population is and, once phase 2 commences, we are able to ensure that all those who want to be vaccinated, will be.

“Together with our administrator, we have set up various processes to ensure we are able to achieve this goal to ensure peace of mind for our members,” said Callakoppen.


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