Discovery chief executive officer Adrian Gore says that the healthcare and financial group is ready to launch a ‘mass vaccination programme’ – as soon as enough vaccines are available in the country.
In a message to Discovery Health members on Saturday (27 March), Gore said that while government’s vaccine procurement has been frustrated by ‘complexities’, if the required doses arrive according to schedule, the group will be able to inoculate tens of thousands of members every day.
“The country is on the brink of securing sufficient vaccines to cover more than 37 million adults in South Africa, exceeding the population herd immunity target of 29 million people – the number of adults required to reach the herd immunity threshold,” he said.
“The key issue is when the vaccines will arrive in the country, and the success of the combined efforts of both the public and private sector to fast-track vaccine administration in order to cover the high-risk population as soon as possible.”
Gore said that Discovery is making “an unprecedented financial and human capital investment” in its own mass vaccination programme, with the goal of vaccinating three million adult beneficiaries quickly and efficiently.
He said the group has the capacity to vaccinate 50,000 people per day, pending vaccine supply. This will enable all of Discovery’s 550,000 high-risk members to be vaccinated “within a few weeks”.
How it will work
The programme will be ready to go in May 2021, when phase 2 of the national vaccine rollout is expected to start.
Discovery says it will deploy in excess of 500 people and the establish more than 20 large-scale vaccination centres around the country
A dedicated digital portal will be set up to assist with the vaccination programme end-to-end, ensuring a seamless member experience.
This portal will work alongside and in support of the Department of Health’s National Electronic Vaccine Distribution System (EVDS) and allow for booking, appointment management, identification on arrival, tracking and reminders for second doses, and follow-up.
“We will track any adverse effects, which are likely to be few and far between, and support members through the process,” Gore said.
Gore said that Discovery will follow the government’s phased rollout plan, and that members will be alerted when to register on the digital portal.
Government’s phased rollout has set targets up to February 2022, starting with 1.5 million healthcare workers expected to be vaccinated by the end of April.
Phase 2 will target 14 million adults being vaccinated from May to September – which includes the elderly and those with co-morbidities, plus various groups of essential workers identified as central to sustaining the economy.
“All 550,000 individuals identified as high-risk members will be vaccinated within a few weeks of commencing the Mass Vaccination Programme, subject to vaccine supply. We will inform you if you fall within this category, so you do not need to do anything now until you receive communication from us,” Gore said.
The final phase targets 22 million people during October to February 2022 – representing the balance of the adult population.
“In order to achieve the desired outcomes, South Africa must vaccinate 250,000 to 300,000 people per day. We are working with Business for South Africa and the Department of Health to ensure that capacity is in place, with the private sector to be included in the vaccination rollout from May, as confirmed in the Cabinet plan. We are confident that this target is feasible and achievable,” Gore said.