South Africa has been in lockdown for 18 months, and with the arrival of the long-awaited Covid-19 vaccine, the focus has shifted from lockdown to the vaccine rollout and ensuring that population immunity is reached within the shortest timeframe, says medical scheme Momentum Health Solutions.
With the slow pace of South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccinations, it remains a concern that government will probably miss its target to achieve population immunity by 2022. This poses major threats to disrupt the country’s economic recovery, the scheme said.
“Government’s initial plan was to immunise 41 million people by the end of 2021 and to date, only around 5.3 million people have been immunised,” said Damian McHugh, executive head of marketing at Momentum Health Solutions. “Some people also need to take more than one dose to be fully vaccinated.”
McHugh said that the slow vaccine rollout, combined with the stricter lockdown as well as the destructive riots in parts of the country, is likely to disrupt the economy in the long term and compel more consumers to cut back medical aid expenses to survive.
This will further strain the medical scheme industry as the claims ratio continues to become a worry, he said.
Economists at Nedbank raised similar concerns around the slow pace of South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccinations in a research note this week, warning that government will probably miss its target of achieving herd immunity by 2022.
This slow rollout – combined with the stricter lockdown and the destructive social unrest – is likely to disrupt, but not wholly derail the country’s economic recovery, it said.
“This was the case during the second wave from late December to the end of January. The move to an adjusted level 3 lockdown, which also included a ban on alcohol sales, resulted in weak output and sales outcomes in January, followed by a robust rebound in February and March,” it said.
“As a result, growth continued, with real GDP expanding by a further 4.6% q-o-q (seasonally adjusted and annualised rates) in the first quarter, after recovering at rates of 5.8% and 67.3% in the fourth and third quarters of 2020, respectively.”
According to data presented by Mediahack, which has been tracking the rollout of vaccines in South Africa, at the current rate of vaccinations, it will take the country three years to reach its target of immunising 67% of the population.
Since the rollout started on 17 February, only 5,558,378 vaccinations have been administered – averaging 36,329 vaccinations a day. If vaccinations continue at this pace it will take 3 years 4 days to reach the 67% target, it said.
To hit the government’s target of 41 million by February next year, the country needs to fully vaccinate 160,000 people a day, every day, including weekends.
In recent days, South Africa has managed to vaccinate over 230,000 people a day; however, weekends remain a major blind spot, with only a fraction of the jabs being administered on Saaturdays and Sundays.