South Africa expands Covid-19 vaccine incentives after slow uptake

The Department of Health will now offer R100 grocery vouchers to South Africans in their fifties who receive their first Covid-19 shot.

The programme, dubbed ‘Vooma vouchers’, was previously only available to people aged 60 and above but has been expanded due to a slower than expected uptake.

The vouchers are aimed at making it easier for older people to get vaccinated by offsetting some of the costs they incur getting to the vaccination sites, the department said.

For the month of November every person who is 50 years and older and goes for their very first Covid-19 jab, will automatically receive notification of a R100 voucher as an SMS on the cell number they gave for vaccination.

Those people who do not yet have a free Money Market account with Shoprite will need to register either in-store or by free USSD, WhatsApp or mobile App.  This service will ensure that the voucher can be traced and re-issued if it is lost and if it has not already been redeemed. It also means that people do not have to spend the full voucher all at once.

The voucher is valid for 30 days after receiving it, the department said.

Poor uptake 

The Department of Health said that its immediate priority is to vaccinate as many people aged fifty years and older ahead of the anticipated fourth wave, because over 80% of Covid-19 related deaths have occurred in this age group.

Three in five people aged 50 years and older have had at least one dose of vaccination and reaching most of the remainder will substantially reduce the number of hospitalisations and deaths over the festive period and into the new year, it said.

“Unfortunately, the uptake of Vooma vouchers among has been poor, with only 8,135 redeemed to date. We have also not seen a significant uptick in vaccinations among over sixties,” said Dr David Harrison, national lead for demand acceleration.

“We are trying to understand the reasons for this slow uptake. We are only two weeks in and it may be that the message takes time to filter down to everyone. But we don’t have the luxury of time with the fourth wave approaching and must adapt our strategy quickly if it doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect,” he said.

“The voucher is intended to assist people to access the vaccine, which has far greater value than the amount of the value itself. For older people in particular, vaccination may determine whether families spend their festive season visiting relatives in hospital or even attending funerals.”

Data shows that there are still over four million people aged fifty and older who have not been vaccinated, and it is hoped that extending this offer will enable a substantial proportion of them to come forward, he said.

Read: New modelling shows what to expect from fourth Covid-19 wave in South Africa

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South Africa expands Covid-19 vaccine incentives after slow uptake