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Questions and answers regarding the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out

Medihelp

2021-02-16

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Medihelp forms part of the Funders Working Group and various task teams collaborating with the Council for Medical Schemes to provide input on the vaccine framework of the National Department of Health (NDoH). It is our priority to actively participate and support this process, which is of global importance. Members can rest assured that they will receive access to the vaccine in line with the national prioritisation protocols and will enjoy PMB cover for their vaccinations through the Scheme.

Which vaccines will be available first?
The first consignment of vaccines received in South Africa was developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford, and was manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII). The vaccination process that was due to commence this week has however been temporarily put on hold due to concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine against the 501Y.V2 variant.

Research shows that the AstraZeneca vaccine showed significantly reduced efficacy against the variant, and that a two-dose regimen of the vaccine did not show protection against mild to moderate cases of COVID-19. Although the vaccine could be effective against severe cases, this has not yet been validated through clinical trials.

It is important to stress that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe; the concerns are all linked to its efficacy against the 501Y.V2 variant.

Meanwhile, South Africa is expecting a shipment of about 117 000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Talks are also under way at international level to accelerate the deployment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in South Africa for local health workers and once it has been approved by SAHPRA it will also form part of the vaccination programme.

How will the national roll-out protocol work?
The national roll-out will take place in three phases in accordance with Government’s prioritisation protocol, which is based on international protocols, with frontline healthcare workers being first in line to receive the vaccine, followed by essential workers, high-risk and vulnerable people, and then the rest of the population:

Phase 1
Frontline healthcare workers (1,2 million)

Phase 2
  • Essential workers
  • Individuals in congregate settings (where people work and/or live in close proximity)
  • Individuals over 60
  • Individuals over the age of 18 with co-morbidities (16 million)

Phase 3
All individuals over the age of 18 (22,5 million)

Who can register for the vaccine first?
All healthcare workers (any person working with patients), including members of Medihelp who are active healthcare workers, are first to register online on the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS). This complete vaccination health information system is a self-registration portal where healthcare workers who want to be vaccinated can register and indicate their place of work, which will be used to determine their place of vaccination. They will receive an SMS confirming their registration on the system and SMSs to state when and where the first and second (where applicable) doses will be available. Upon completion of the inoculation, the system can issue a vaccination certificate on request. Vaccination is voluntary and a record will be kept of all persons who have been vaccinated.

We encourage all members who are healthcare workers in the front line to register at vaccine.enroll.health.za. The system specifically prioritises healthcare workers and captures your details so that you can be contacted to receive your applicable doses of the vaccine and a certificate of vaccination. The system will also require you to give particulars of your medical scheme, to ascertain which individuals enjoy medical scheme cover.

When will the vaccine become available to members who are not healthcare workers?
Once the first phase has been completed, members will receive the vaccine in the same order as outlined in the phases prioritising frontline and vulnerable populations as determined by the NDoH.

Where can members be vaccinated?
Only accredited vaccination centres have access to the vaccines. Medihelp is currently in discussions with our networks of healthcare providers who will qualify for accreditation and registration and will be able to inoculate our members. We will keep you updated on the progress.

Should you receive the vaccination if you have already had COVID-19?
The level of immunity after contracting COVID-19 is not adequate to protect you, thus you should definitely be vaccinated as the vaccine produces more effective antibodies protecting you from serious illness should you become infected again.

How will the vaccination be funded?
Vaccination forms part of the prescribed minimum benefit protocol for COVID-19, which means that the vaccine and administering of the vaccine will be covered across all options for all beneficiaries in line with PMB criteria and clinical guidelines, and Medihelp has set funding aside to provide for the cover.

Will the vaccine be compulsory?
Government has confirmed that COVID-19 vaccination will not be compulsory in South Africa, although it is strongly recommended. Since the COVID-19 vaccine qualifies for PMB, all medical schemes have to provide cover for COVID-19 vaccination in terms of the Medical Schemes Act. Medihelp members who choose to be vaccinated will thus enjoy full cover for vaccinations that are approved by SAHPRA.

Quick member opinion survey of the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS)
To measure the support for the vaccination of medical scheme members, the CMS is conducting a survey amongst members of medical schemes on COVID-19 vaccines, with the objective of using the results of this opinion survey for planning and communication.

Participation in this study is voluntary. The survey is available here.

Should you continue to practise safety protocols if vaccinated?
Please continue practising safety protocols, also during the vaccination roll-out and following vaccination, as the roll-out will take a considerable time until the threat of infection abates.

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