Discovery Health chief commercial officer Ronald Whelan said on Friday that the company endorses approved Covid-19 vaccines and encourages South Africans to participate in the programme once roll-out begins.
South Africa has secured at least 20-million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from manufacturers, including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, as part of a bulk purchase by the African Union.
South Africa recorded 11 381 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, with a death toll of 39 501.
Whelan explained that South Africans will not be forced to take the vaccine, however, they will be encouraged to take it to protect those around them.
He stated that Discovery Health endorses the roll-out of the vaccine, as it is critical to save lives. He added medical schemes would dip into their reserves to fund the vaccine.
South Africa is struggling with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic which was triggered by a variant of the virus known as 501Y.V2. The new variant is said to be 50% more contagious than other variants, which has led to a wave of hospitalisations.
The health scheme reinforced its support for social distancing, sanitising and mask wearing.
Whelan noted that older people without any medical aid should be prioritised.
Children under the age of 18 will not be vaccinated, as these vaccines were not approved for children.
The first phase of the roll-out will target South Africa’s 1.3-million health care and associated workers.
The recipients will include cleaners and receptionists in doctors’ practices who are equally at risk of getting infected as doctors are.
Next in line are the elderly and people with comorbidities — roughly 20-million people — in the third or fourth quarter of the year, followed by the rest of the population by the year’s end.
Whelan advocated for equality with the vaccine drive across the country and added that it was important that everyone had equitable access to vaccines, in the public and private sector.