South Africa’s business industry on Friday welcomed the launch of the registration drive to get people over the age of 60 vaccinated against Covid-19. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Business industry welcomes launch of online vaccine registrations

By Siphelele Dludla

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s business industry on Friday welcomed the launch of the registration drive to get people over the age of 60 vaccinated against Covid-19.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has launched the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) for the second phase of the vaccine rollout, which is expected to start in May.

Business 4 South Africa (B4SA) said they welcomed the government’s prioritisation of those over the age of 60, as they were most at risk of contracting Covid-19.

B4SA chairman Martin Kingston said this was significant progress.

“We must seek to vaccinate this group as quickly as possible and ahead of the third wave and the onset of winter, Kingston said.

“Consequently, we are calling on all those over 60, regardless of whether they are part of a medical aid scheme or not, to register on the EVDS without delay.”

This was in spite of no existing actual vaccine programme at the moment after the suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week following a few cases of blood clots in the US.

The temporary suspension of the vaccination programme has placed South Africa’s economic recovery in doubt as the rise of Covid-19 infections could mean more stringent lockdown restrictions.

The government has also reported this week that 10 million additional doses of Pfizer vaccine have been secured to total 30m Pfizer doses. It said 2 million would be delivered in May.

Additionally 20 million vaccine doses would be provided through Covax, which are expected in the second quarter of 2021.

The government said the Phase 2 of the vaccine programme would run concurrently with Phase 1, which prioritises the vaccination of approximately 1.2 million healthcare workers.

The government’s calculation is that the country will need to vaccinate between 250 000 and 300 000 people per day in Phase 2 to meet the 16.6 million target timeously.

Kingston said the private sector could vaccinate more than 160 000 people per day.

He said B4SA was capacitated with more than 100 senior volunteers from leading healthcare and professional services companies who were working to assist the national effort.

“B4SA has mobilised business’ capabilities and resources to increase the nation’s vaccination capacity,” Kingston said.

“It has created a specific operationalisation workstream that will build the private sector capacity to vaccinate approximately 163 000 people per day across corporate and independent pharmacies, employer occupational health sites, large scale sites developed by medical schemes, GPs, private hospitals, and mass vaccination sites.”

Last week medical aids, such as Discovery and Momentum Health, sent out information to their members and put information on their websites with information on how to register.

Meanwhile, Medscheme, which owned by the JSE-listed AfroCentric Group, is one of the largest medical administrators in South Africa, handling administration for Fedhealth, Bonitas, Nedgroup, the SABC, Polmed and Samwumed, said on Friday that central to Medscheme’s vaccination plan was to facilitate on-site vaccinations for employer groups and use its own walk-in centres to speed up the vaccine rollout significantly, by making it available at places of work for those who belong to these schemes.

Annabel Bishop, the chief economist at Investec said in a note on Friday thatprivate sector mass administration of vaccines had yet to occur. “The recent halting of government’s current J&J vaccination programme will further delay the vaccination rollout in South Africa, with a successful, and speedy, rollout key to economic recovery.”

To date South Africa had administered 292 623 vaccinations towards its aim of achieving herd immunity by covering close to 40 million of the 60 million population, with 1 541 631 cases of Covid-19 recorded so far, and 53 571 deaths with 1 488 060 recoveries.

For more on the story, visit iol