Business over the weekend played its part in the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out as Discovery Health opened its sixth Gauteng site, but with calls for the government to allow for more involvement by the private sector. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane AFrican News Agency (ANA)
Business over the weekend played its part in the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out as Discovery Health opened its sixth Gauteng site, but with calls for the government to allow for more involvement by the private sector. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane AFrican News Agency (ANA)

Business sector adds efficiency to vaccine roll-outs, asks for more leeway

By Banele Ginindza Time of article published Jul 5, 2021

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BUSINESS over the weekend played its part in the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out as Discovery Health opened its sixth Gauteng site, but with calls for the government to allow for more involvement by the private sector.

South Africa registered more than 26 000 cases of Covid-19 yesterday, the highest tally of new infections since the pandemic erupted across the world early last year, sparking fears that the lockdown restrictions could be extended, further hitting the nascent economic recovery.

The government is the sole purchaser of vaccines, which it distributes to provincial governments and the private sector, with the government operating most of the vaccine sites.

Corporate updates on Friday indicated that business would bring added efficiency to achieve the 300 000 vaccines a day to achieve the 60 percent desired herd immunity rate to rule out higher lockdown restrictions, including the current level 4 regulations, as Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Saturday welcomed the approval of Sinovac’s CoronaVac Covid-19 vaccine.

Profmed Medical scheme has made an impassioned plea to the government to involve the private sector, even allowing the non-medically covered public to pay the R80.50 administration upfront.

Craig Comrie, the chief executive of Profmed, said: “The low level of private sector engagement has only opened doors to fund the government-controlled programme. But we can deliver so much more value for the nation, if we were only let in.

“We can start by creating shorter turnaround times in distribution and having more vaccination points.

“It is essential to have all over-60s vaccinated first, but we need more education on vaccines and fewer restrictions or obstacles such as Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS) registration-only requirements.

“Walk-ins for this age group should be welcomed, and vaccine stock shortages will quickly give us an idea of where people prefer receiving vaccines, and then we can adapt.”

Discovery Health said on Friday that it had opened its sixth Covid-19 vaccination site at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Joburg, with the capacity to deliver 3 800 vaccinations per day to the 3.5 million residents who will contribute to the combined target of delivering 40 000 vaccinations a day at the peak of the roll-out.

Sanlam said its sites in Bellville, Houghton, Woodstock, Centurion, Roodepoort and Durban, were ready to roll out more than 10 000 vaccinations, as it had done over the past weeks.

“Over the last few weeks, we have vaccinated over 10 000 people at our sites, in line with the vaccine roll-out protocols, and we are geared to scale up further,” said the chief executive of Sanlam Life and Savings, Jurie Strydom.

“The fact is that economic recovery depends on vaccinating as many people, as fast as possible, because with more jabs, there will be more jobs in the Western Cape. And so we are grateful to the private sector for their commitment to support the vaccine roll-out strategy, and we look forward to working with the private sector, so that together we can rebuild the economy and create jobs in the Western Cape,” said David Maynier, the Western Cape’s finance and economic opportunities MEC.

Momentum Metropolitan Holdings confirmed on Friday that it would receive limited stock of Covid-19 vaccines. This would enable their mass vaccination centres in Sandton and Cape Town and their Centurion and Durban centres to open this week.

Damian McHugh, the chief marketing officer for Momentum Health Solutions, said: “We are not yet operating at full capacity as the supply of vaccine is still limited, but once we have adequate vaccine supplies, we will be able to vaccinate 10 000 people per day across the four sites. We still have plans for more sites in other regions which will further increase that capacity.”

Last week retailer Shoprite, said it was on stand-by to vaccinate its more than 140 000-strong workforce, while yesterday the Minerals Council of South Africa (MCSA) said it was ready to administer to at least 430 000 people at 58 sites that it oversees.

The spokesperson of the MCSA, Charmane Russell, said: “There are currently 58 mining occupational health sites that have applied to register as primary vaccination sites in terms of the protocols set up through B4SA. Of these, 21 have already received the required permits from the National Department of Health, as one step towards readying the sites for operation.“

Four other companies – Sasol, Thungela Resources, Harmony and Sibanye-Stillwater – have also undertaken vaccination programmes.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said that, while it did not have the capacity to administer jabs, it was behind all the efforts by the government to expedite the roll-out of vaccines to workers.

Cas Coovadia, chief executive of Business Unity South Africa (Busa) said the organisation with membership spans many sectors that include mining, financial services, manufacturing, agriculture, motor industry, chemical industry, chambers and professionals – and the companies which have Onsite Health Services (OHS) facilities were using those for their vaccination programmes.

Coovadia said: “We are thus devoting considerable time and capacity, supporting government in this effort. Numerous companies have already set up workplace sites to administer vaccines, and some have been accredited by government, while others are awaiting accreditation.”

The Black Business Council (BBC), whose confederation includes organisational members, mainly business chambers, said at least 1 million vaccine jabs could be delivered through its structures.

Black Business Council (BBC) chief executive Kganti Matabane, said over the weekend that its affiliates’ main centres were on hand to downstream roll-outs to sub-sectors within the organisation.

“If you follow football you will realise that soccer stadiums in Europe now have thousands of people who are attending soccer games and there are almost no masks because people have been vaccinated.

“South African companies did not have to shutdown business under lockdown if the rollout of vaccines had been efficient,” Matabane said.

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