COVID-19 vaccine free at point of service

Thursday, January 28, 2021

No person, insured or uninsured, will be expected to pay when they access the COVID-19 vaccination.  

This is according to Health Department Technical Adviser, Dr Aquina Thulare, who said 40 million South Africans need to be vaccinated in South Africa to ensure that the population has the immunity it needs to fight COVID-19, which has already claimed over 42 000 lives in the country. 

“So, vaccination will be free at the point of service,” she said on Wednesday during a webinar on COVID-19 vaccination. 

According to Thulare, out of 40 million people that require the jab, only 7.1 million are insured by private-sector medical schemes, while 32.9 million are uninsured.

Meanwhile, 350 000 out of 1.2 million public servants are covered by medical aids.

“The vaccine itself has been designated as a public good and will be delivered free at the point of care and delivery is based on the principles of social solidary so that we look after each other in our society,” she explained. 

Thulare said the funding for the vaccine will be predominantly from the fiscus but “augmented” by private funding sources.

She reiterated the government’s position of being the sole purchaser and driver of the vaccination programme.

“Government will ensure that we’ll do this at the lowest possible price that we can negotiate,” she added.

Meanwhile, she said an identified entity will receive the vaccine and act as a central distributor for the vaccination on behalf of government and will recover costs on behalf of the State.

Electronic Vaccine Data System

She said the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS) will ensure that accredited facilities are captured to harmonise the supply of vaccines, pre-booking system and inoculation itself.

The EVDS has been launched to enable the department to capture all relevant data associated with the administration of the vaccine.

Also, Thulare said government will also look at ways of recovering costs from insured patients.

The Adviser said that those who are covered by medical aid, funding will be derived from medical schemes, even though it will be administered for free at the point of service.

“In the private sectors and providers including pharmacies, that want to provide service for insured persons, they will procure the vaccine from the central distributor through their wholesalers using a single exit price.”

Prescribed Minimum Benefit

She said the private sector providers will then bill medical schemes for the cost of the vaccines and administration fee, which will be paid through the Prescribed Minimum Benefit (PMB).

“We’ve already declared the vaccination for COVID-19 as a PMB, which means schemes are obliged to pay for this service,” she said, adding that the covered patients will also need to go through pre-registration and booking.

Meanwhile, the 32.9 million people who are uninsured including the healthcare workers, government will provide funding.

“Our uninsured persons will need to have their identity documents if they’re not on the health patient registering system that is already in existence in our facilities.”

Herd immunity

Businesses may also opt to contribute to ensuring that 'herd immunity' is achieved by covering a population of unemployed, for instance, said Thulare.

According to the World Health Organisation, herd immunity is the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through the previous infection. 

“If communities or employees are vaccinated, they’re going to receive their vaccination free at the point of service and the business or corporate will bear the cost.”

Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has confirmed that the first consignment of one million COVID-19 vaccines is expected to land on South African shores on Monday, which the healthcare workers will be the first in line to get vaccinated. –