Wednesday, January 26

Achieving a vaccination rate of 70% to 80% of adults is crucial

We need to be absolutely focused on achieving a vaccination rate of 70% to 80% of adults. Countries with that level of vaccination have seen hospitalization and mortality rates drop dramatically, even as infections continue in waves. That’s what we need to get confidence back, so that lockdowns are behind us and companies can focus on rebuilding the economy. The urgency to do so was reinforced by last week’s dire unemployment figures.

Read: Unemployment in South Africa is much worse than a bloodbath


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I applaud the Department of Health (DoH) for administering an average of 240,000 vaccine injections last week, a higher rate than countries like Israel and the UK that have achieved high levels of penetration. [although the former is now issuing booster shots]. There, businesses are open and life has practically returned to normal. The progress of the DoH is a confidence boost for us in the sense that we are [hopefully] progressing towards that result ourselves.

Last week’s high numbers were driven by the opening of vaccines for everyone 18 and older. That will have caused an increase and we must do everything possible to maintain the vaccination rate. There are two key measures needed to do this: improving access and incentivizing people to get vaccinated.

Access will become increasingly difficult as the program continues: South Africa has many hard-to-reach areas. The DoH is already using mobile vaccination units and these will be increasingly important to ensure comprehensive access.

The subject of incentives, of course, is controversial. Unlike other countries, South Africa does not impose any vaccines, including obvious life-saving vaccines such as measles in children. Globally, things are quite different. France, for example, prohibits children without measles vaccines from attending public schools. Those traveling in Africa know that yellow fever vaccination certificates are required to access many countries. The Covid vaccine is already being treated like a passport: it is now difficult to travel internationally without being vaccinated. But it goes beyond travel: evidence of vaccination is now a requirement for access to restaurants or large-scale public events from New York to Greece.

Either of these measures would require our vaccination program to provide reliable proof of vaccination for those who have received their injections. A simple verification technique, preferably in line with global digital standards that have already been established, is key.

It is about giving people access to their own health data and it should be straightforward from a policy point of view.

It is important that the government facilitate this.

Public policies can drive a certain level of incentives for vaccines, but the private sector can too. Many employers have led the charge to help employees access vaccines. Some employers may make vaccination mandatory when their employees are exposed to the public (such as restaurants) or work closely with each other. Companies also have the right to control access; Just as they can insist that employees who are exposed to the public be vaccinated, they can insist that customers who are exposed to their employees or each other get vaccinated. As the vaccine program continues, I hope that companies will become more stringent in requiring vaccination of both their customers and their employees.

Of course, there will be a lot of ideological controversy over such measures.

Those who refuse to be vaccinated may well claim that it is their right, but it is also the right of the rest of us to protect ourselves from the risks posed by unvaccinated people and to do everything possible to achieve the general vaccination rates necessary for life to return. to normal.

Going beyond all lockdown restrictions is a critical component of the broader effort to drive an economic recovery, one that will begin to turn the tide on unemployment, reignite economic growth, and begin to heal the state’s damaged financial condition. There are other important components, such as the structural reforms that companies and the government have worked to achieve. These are some of the many steps that must be taken.

But I feel confident that we are moving in the right direction, both on the vaccine program and on the necessary economic policy changes. We all have a responsibility to maintain this momentum and getting vaccinated is the least we can do.

Busi Mavuso is Executive Director of Business Leadership South Africa.

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