On the 7 January, 2021, the Health Ministry announced that South Africa has an estimated 1.25 million healthcare workers who are an urgent priority in terms of Covid-19 vaccinations. A million dosages of the vaccine will be received in January and a further 500 000 in February through the Serum Institute of India (SII). The Department will engage with all relevant stakeholders in preparation for the roll out.
It is our understanding that these engagements will be facilitated though the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) and will include medical scheme forums with the respective Principal Officers. This, together with engagements with industry organisations, such as the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF), which represents a significant portion of the open and closed private medical scheme industry. Bonitas welcomes the engagement and undertaking from the Registrar of Medical Schemes to facilitate the consultation and agree on the principles for an urgent, comprehensive and inclusive vaccination plan.
We are encouraged at the latest news from the Health Ministry and SII. The announcement of the procurement of a vaccine could not come sooner. However, it remains imperative that all-inclusive and collaborative consultation between public and private sector stakeholders remain in place to formulate decisive plans. The urgency to vaccinate is a key priority and we need to step up and assist in the process.
Around 30% of our members and beneficiaries work in the healthcare sector. Many are nurses, so we are happy they are being prioritised. As soon as we have access to the vaccine, we will ensure our members are vaccinated – starting with our essential healthcare workers.
Due to the nature of the pandemic, the development of the vaccine and the health regulations around its efficacy, we are unable to procure the vaccine ourselves. This means we will proactively work alongside the various health and medical regulators to ensure we speed up delivery and procure the number of vaccines required. We are also working on strategies to ensure the rapid distribution of the vaccine to our membership base, once it has been procured.
The entire treatment process for Covid-19, from testing and treatment through to the vaccine, has been added to the Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs) list. This means that as a medical scheme, this is covered from the risk benefits. We are committed to ensuring our members have access to a vaccine as soon as it becomes available and in line with the agreed vaccine strategy. Members will have access to the vaccine, no matter what plan they are on.
Bonitas is financially stable and sound, we have set aside funds to ensure we can cover the costs of the Covid-19 vaccines. We want to reassure our members and beneficiaries, that we will fund the vaccine and continue to fund testing and treatment of the coronavirus in line with the prevailing regulations
As a medical scheme which always has our members’ health as a priority, we want to help beat this pandemic and, as such, are engaging and negotiating with all relevant parties to help speed up the vaccination procurement process. But, in the interim, we are not losing sight of the very real battle we face right now to help fight the increasing number of infections in the 2nd wave of Covid-2019. The burden of responsibility remains with each one of us. We urge South Africans to follow the protocols outlined by the Government and to remain vigilant to reduce the infection rate and impact on the overburdened healthcare system as we await the vaccine.