Are COVID-19 vaccines capable of ‘calming the waves’? Science proves they definitely can.

200 million people around the world have been confirmed infected with COVID-19 since its outbreak – nearly 2.5 million of which have been recorded in South Africa.

A recent study published by the Economist estimates this number to be much higher, with approximately 10 million estimated deaths worldwide as a result of COVID-19.

South Africans account for over 70 000 of the confirmed 4 million lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic thus far.

With country excess deaths exceeding 200 000 lives since the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 has touched the lives of all people on earth in some way or another.

What has become abundantly clear during this pandemic is that no one, anywhere in the world, will be 100% immune to the adverse effects of it.

Vaccines have become the remedy to combat the worst of the virus.

Mass vaccination drives are currently in progress around the globe, but how effective are they likely to be?

We take a look at some of what the science behind vaccination efforts is already telling us.

Vaccines play an essential role in overcoming the worst of COVID-19

All of the approved vaccines for COVID-19 have been developed to assist the body with building immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, the virus which causes the disease, without a person actually having to contract an infection first.

In a nutshell, vaccines induce a supply of B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes (white blood cells or ‘memory’ cells) to assist the building of antibodies in the immune system of the body.

This normally takes place within the first few weeks following a vaccination dose. These cells ’remember’ the virus and initiate a defence process that reduces the likelihood of serious illness.

A single dose initiates the body’s immune response, with some vaccines requiring an additional shot (often referred to as a booster), so as to ensure a stronger and more durable effect.

What are the proven benefits of having a COVID-19 vaccine?

Approved vaccines for COVID-19 help to:

  • Reduce the risk of an infection from occurring
  • Reduce the severity of illness and probability of death if an infection does occur
  • Reduce the rate of transmission of COVID-19 to others
  • Prevent the virus from being able to replicate itself and mutate into stronger variants, which will be more resistant to currently developed vaccines

Discovery Life – the first insurer to incorporate the importance of vaccination against COVID-19 into product design and the underwriting process

Discovery Life has seen the significant impact that the COVID-19 virus has had and continues to have on our clients.

The presence of the COVID-19 virus significantly increases our clients’ mortality risk regardless of their age. In fact, we have received life cover claims in every age band.

Further after being diagnosed with COVID-19 there is a substantial increase in a client’s mortality risk.

For example, a mid-40-year-old client has a 10-times higher mortality risk after being diagnosed with COVID-19 relative to their pre-COVID risk7.

Therefore, Discovery Life recognises both the importance and benefits of vaccination, and would therefore like to encourage clients to make the healthy choice of getting vaccinated.

“For all new clients who take up one of our qualifying life plans, a benefit will be offered to recognise the value of vaccinations in reducing risk,” says Discovery Life Chief Executive, Riaan van Reenen.

“The Vaccination Max PayBack Offer is the first of its kind, in that it incorporates the impact of vaccinations into our risk pricing structures at the underwriting stage.”

“All clients who have been vaccinated or commit to being vaccinated can receive up to 100% in premium PayBack accumulation – the Shared-value mechanism built into the design of our life plans – at the first anniversary of their new policy.” van Reenen explains further.

South Africa’s vaccination programme is well underway, with all 18-year and older lives being eligible for vaccination from 1 September 2021, effectively covering the entire insured population. To date, South Africa has administered more than 6 million vaccine doses, with the rate of vaccinations accelerating.

“The third wave of COVID-19 saw the number of daily confirmed infections reach 26 500 at its peak. This far exceeds the 22 000 daily confirmed cases during the peak of the second wave,” explains van Reenen. “Hospital admissions during the third wave have surpassed those experienced during the peak of the second wave.”

“By isolating the components of what drives a COVID-19 wave, we can reduce the negative outcomes of each wave. We can target controllable influential factors and focus on the various means that help to minimize their impact. Vaccinations are an important factor here – especially while the Delta variant is so dominant.”

“We know that the Delta variant is 97% more transmissible than the original lineage of this virus. By comparison to the Beta variant, it is between 30-60% more transmissible. It has also led to more hospitalisations due to more infections,” adds van Reenen.

Vaccinations work – and are backed by science

Scientifically documented evidence across the world is increasingly showing the efficacy of vaccines while managing infection caseloads. Both infection and mortality rates are declining as the number of vaccination administrations increase.

“After just one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, one of the standard vaccines being used in South Africa, the likelihood of hospitalisation after contracting the Delta variant is reduced by as much as 94%. After the second dose, risk is reduced to as much as 96%” says van Reenen.

“Discovery Health data also currently indicates that clients have a 47% lower COVID-19 risk within three weeks of receiving their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. This shows that the continued rollout of the vaccine will yield ever-improving outcomes for the entire population,” he adds.

Van Reenen goes on to explain, “Discovery Life’s claims risk due to COVID-19 is two-fold, namely the mortality and morbidity risk.

Life Cover remains valid through the pandemic and pay-outs are unaffected by whether or not clients get vaccinated. Morbidity risk manifests through benefits such as the Income Continuation and Severe Illness Benefits.

Such claims are associated with severe cases of COVID-19. Therefore, the more such claims are limited, the lower the claims risk.”

“Discovery’s Shared-value model rewards clients for making healthy decisions and controlling their underlying risk.”

“By preventing the possible morbidity and mortality outcomes of COVID-19, our clients create an actuarial surplus which can then be shared back with them.”

“Shared-value clearly manifests when a client makes the responsible decision to get vaccinated, and this is largely why we have taken the decision to recognise the reduction in risk.”

“It benefits clients by enabling them to continue leading a healthier life and best support loved ones. It benefits us as an insurer by enabling higher insurance savings and lower health loadings and, by extension, South African society from a broader perspective with far lower transmissibility rates.”

“We believe, based on international clinical data as well as our own at Discovery, that if we can positively influence clients to take this all important step to receive their vaccination, we can not only collectively help ease this latest infection wave, but also reach a much healthier state as a nation – sooner, rather than later.

Our quality of life, economy and livelihoods depend on it,” van Reenen concludes.

Click here to learn more about Discovery Life

Discovery Life Limited. Registration number 1966/003901/06, is a licensed insurer, and an authorised financial services and registered credit provider, NCR Reg No. NCRCP3555. Product rules, terms and conditions apply.

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Are COVID-19 vaccines capable of ‘calming the waves’? Science proves they definitely can.