The hidden cost of getting Covid-19 in South Africa: medical aid boss

South Africans who remain unvaccinated face not only health risks but also financial a hit, says Lee Callakoppen, principal officer of Bonitas Medical Fund.

Callakoppen said Bonitas has been proactive in urging its members and the public to be vaccinated, with statistics showing clear evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccines.

“Our statistics show that, of our members over 60, there are 90% fewer admissions to hospital after full vaccination and 56% fewer after one vaccination,” he said.

“Research across the public healthcare environment has shown the same results. With this information freely available it is disturbing that only 16,944,413 people living in South Africa have been vaccinated. This is only 35.5% of adults and 23.7% of the total population.”

Callakoppen said that the cost of hospital admissions, especially to ICU, are very high.

“Our figures show that up to November 22, the Bonitas Covid-19 costs totalled R1.75 billion. 80% of this (R1.4 billion) was hospital costs, while only 4.9% (R85.6 million) was for vaccinations.

“The average cost of admission to ICU, per patient, was R533,969. There is no doubt that vaccinations not only save lives but also reduce the burden on the public healthcare system, as well as save the country billions in costs related to treating Covid. Vaccinations are a fraction of the cost of treating Covid.”

Statistics are clear 

Callakoppen said there is enough clinical evidence to show that the vaccination reduces the severity of Covid and he encourages everyone to be vaccinated. He urges those who have been vaccinated to encourage others to do the same.

Bonitas has reported the following Covid related figures for 2021 as of 22 November.

  • Total lives older than 18 estimated to have received at least 1 jab: 66.4%
  • Total tests performed: 441,929
  • Total Covid-19 hospital admissions: 20,376 (12,264 during 2021)
  • Bonitas lives currently in hospital: 0.3%
  • Admission rate: 25%
  • ICU Admission Rate: 22%
  • Total Covid deaths: 3,515 (2,292 in 2021)
  • Total Bonitas membership vaccinated: 70%
  • The highest number of people vaccinated is in the 35-49 age group followed by the over 60s

“I must reiterate that our best defence against Covid-19 is to be vaccinated,” said Callakoppen.

“It won’t necessarily stop you from getting the coronavirus but it will reduce the severity of the disease. I contracted Covid in September but thankfully because I was fully vaccinated, my symptoms were mild which meant I was able to heal and recover at home. My experience is not unique.”

Read: Showdown over mandatory Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa

By Neil Hall
For The Daily Mirror

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