Discovery ready to vaccinate 3 million members from May, says CEO

30 March 2021 - 06:20 By cebelihle bhengu
Medical aid scheme Discovery aims to vaccinate three million members during the second phase of the rollout, set to start in mid-May. Stock photo.
Medical aid scheme Discovery aims to vaccinate three million members during the second phase of the rollout, set to start in mid-May. Stock photo.

Medical aid scheme Discovery has set out an ambitious target to vaccinate three million members when SA begins its second phase of the vaccine rollout in May, company CEO Adrian Gore told beneficiaries in an e-mail on Friday.

Gore said the company and others in the private sector would collaborate with the state in administering the vaccines to ensure the country meets its target of achieving population immunity by early next year.

This is not without challenges and complexities, he said.

“Pharmaceutical manufactures globally are still not allowing private players to procure vaccines directly, and if they did, these vaccines would still need to be registered centrally via national regulatory structures.”

The phases of SA vaccination and what's been done so far 

The second phase of vaccination will kick off in mid-May. It will target more than 13 million vulnerable groups, essential workers and occupational health and safety workers.

The Sisonke study has so far managed to inoculate 231,605 health workers and aims to vaccinate 500,000 workers out of an estimated 1.5 million in SA by the end of April. The national vaccine rollout will pick up where the trial ends.  

Prof Glenda Gray, co-principal investigator of the study, told TimesLIVE on Monday that SA is expecting its last batch of 200,000 J&J vaccines.

Prof Linda Bekker, co-head investigator, said the study expects to have vaccinated a quarter of a million workers by the end of the week.

Vaccines yet to arrive in SA 

According to the Sunday Times, health minister Zweli Mkhize said SA expects the arrival of 2.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses at the end of April. Sources from the department also told the publication 4.1 million doses are expected in the third and fourth quarters.

How many people will the state and Discovery vaccinate a day?

The state aims to vaccinate 200,000 people a day, according to the report. It has established more than 2,000 vaccinations sites about the country including stadiums, shopping centres and hospitals.

Discovery said it aims to vaccinate 550,000 high-risk members within a few weeks. Members over 60 and people with underlying conditions by the end of June. The scheme will inform members falling into the high-risk category. It will deploy 500 people who will administer the vaccines through its programme, and will establish 20 large-scale vaccination sites.

Mkhize said there will be about 1,200 small vaccination sites that will administer 100 vaccinations daily and medium sites will aim for 300 vaccinations a day. He said large sites will aim to administer up to 2,000 vaccines a day.

The second phase of vaccinations is expected to conclude in October. The third phase for the general population will start in November and conclude in February. This phase will target 22 million people.