VACCINATION: Public-Private Partnerships Critical for Getting an Affordable and Effective Vaccine Fast


Currently, there over 150 vaccines in development around the world and the race is on to bring one to market to ease the global crisis. However, it’s important not to simply ask when will South Africa have a vaccine, but more importantly, whether it will it be affordable.

Paul Cox, Managing Director at the Essential Group of Companies (including health insurance provider, EssentialMED)  believes that a vaccine ready for public consumption will be available sometime within the next six months, but with production on a global scale, he thinks that it should be attainable in South Africa in about 12 to 18 months. “I imagine that it will have to be priced at between R10 and R15. It has to be affordable otherwise this will cause yet another divisive event which the world simply cannot afford.”

He implores big business to partner with government to speed up the process of getting a vaccine into the country. “There are a number of organisations that could potentially put a great deal of money behind this and also manage the distribution. Government, instead of trying to do everything themselves, could give credit to organisations that are willing to step into the breach so to speak. This will help to remove some of the red tape and hurdles that would otherwise delay distribution.”

Cox envisions that the rollout of the vaccine could, in part, be facilitated by private wellness companies like medical schemes and health insurance providers through wellness days at their various branches as well as via pop-up mobile wellness clinics in un-serviced areas where nurses can administer the vaccine. “I can’t see how the public hospital infrastructure will cope if they do it alone. If we do it this way, it will probably take four months to get the country inoculated.”

He continues: “We cannot afford another debacle like that of the personal protective equipment procurement scandal. When the vaccine arrives, it has got to be put into the hands of professionals and the professionals must put it in the hands of the hospitals, the GPs or the wellness clinics. We need some tangible delivery mechanism on the ground where it is trackable and transparent. There are numerous, well-established enterprises like Pharmacy Direct, which can deliver any sort of pharmaceutical product to an end user. This service can then be used in tandem with the existing value chains offered by the likes of Afrocentric, Momentum and Discovery which have the infrastructure in place such as hospitals, wellness clinics, nurses and doctors to administer the vaccine.”

Cox advises that, while these players should be involved, tenders should be awarded to multiple organisations to ensure that there is no price fixing.

He notes too that South Africa must be careful not to get hoodwinked into purchasing a vaccine that is not  internationally reputable. “We can’t have any false starts. The country needs to be using a credible vaccine. If we don’t, it could have far-reaching consequences such as travel restrictions since our citizens will not be inoculated with a globally recognised vaccine. Worse still, it could put lives at risk.”

“The private sector must be involved if we are to fast-track getting a credible vaccine that’s affordable for the majority of the population into the country. Let us help South Africa!” concludes Cox.

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