Various medical insurance companies, businesses and the South African government are working together to develop a program that will allow the private sector to fund COVID-19 vaccines for the uninsured.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has already amended regulations to allow vaccines and other therapeutics to be part of the prescribed minimum benefits of medical schemes.

According to Stavros Nicolaou, head of the Health Workgroup for B4SA, their aim is to have companies contribute towards unfunded employees.

“We are looking at a model of some cover for uncovered patients,” he said in an interview on Monday. “For every funded person, there will be a contribution to the unfunded.”

In December 2020, Discovery Health announced they would fund vaccines to cover two-million of its members. On Tuesday [January 5], CEO Ryan Noach said that they are now working with government to subsidise about 30% of the population’s vaccinations once they are available in the country.

“Medical aid schemes will pay a slightly higher price for the vaccine than the cost price. Through the payment’s higher price through a central procurement hub, probably administered by someone like the Solidarity Fund, the surplus that’s generated will be used to subside that fee for members of the public who don’t have medical scheme cover as well,” he said.

The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be delivered by the second quarter of this year. The Health Department is targeting a minimum of 67% of the population to achieve herd immunity and the approach will be a phased rollout of the vaccine beginning with the most vulnerable in our population:

Phase One:

– Front line health care workers (HCW). Target population: 1,250,000

Phase Two:

– Essential workers. Target population: 2,500,000

– Persons in congregate settings. Target population: 1,100,000

– Persons >60 years. Target population: 5,000,000

– Persons >18 years with co-morbidities. Target population: 8,000,000

Phase 3

– Other persons >18 years. Target population: 22,500,000

This means that by the end of phase three,  40 350 000 citizens will have been immunized which is equivalent to approximately 67,25% of the population.

Thus far, Government have secured the doses that will be acquired through COVAX which will ensure that 10% of the population is immunized. The funds to pay the outstanding amount after the deposit that has been made by the Solidarity Fund , around R1,8 billion, have been allocated.

Having secured for 10% of the population, government have embarked on other efforts to get the rest of the 57% of the population to be targeted by the end 2021. However, they are  making efforts to obtain vaccines much earlier, hopefully as early as February 2021. This will very much depend on the success of current bilateral negotiations.

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