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S. Africa Medical Insurers, Business Groups, Government to Fund Uninsured Vaccinations

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South African medical insurance companies, business organizations and the government are developing a program in which the private sector will help finance COVID-19 vaccines for people who are not covered by insurance.

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The legislation has been amended to allow businesses to fund shots for people who do not have medical insurance, and the talks are now focused on the number of people who can benefit from it, said Stavros Nicolaou, head of the health working group for B4SA, a group of South Africa, said. Africa’s largest business organizations. In addition to medical insurers, companies such as miners can also contribute money so their workers can be covered, he said.

“We are looking at a model of coverage for uncovered patients,” he said in an interview Monday. “For every funded person, there will be a contribution to the unfunded.”

The talks come as the South African government is increasingly criticized by unions, health officials and opposition parties for failing to obtain vaccines, even as at least 29 countries begin vaccinating their populations. The country has yet to conclude any direct supply agreements with pharmaceutical companies. The company expects to receive shots in the second quarter to cover a tenth of its approximately 60 million people through the Covax initiative, which seeks to ensure equitable access to vaccines.

According to the national statistics agency, from 2019, 17% of the South African population will be covered by medical insurance.

South Africa, with 1.13 million confirmed infections and more than 30,000 deaths, is the country in Africa most affected by COVID-19.

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Allowing medical insurers or companies to introduce vaccinations only for their own members or employees can cause tensions in South Africa, which is one of the world’s most unequal societies. The government is already struggling to meet a number of economic challenges, with many state-owned enterprises relying on bailouts from the budget.

Adrian Gore, CEO of Discovery Ltd., the largest medical insurance company in South Africa, is chairing a panel investigating the operation of the program.

Business is also trying to speed up the arrival of vaccines in the country, Nicolaou said.

“We need to change the public story,” he said. “How can you speed up the timing, if at all?”

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– With the help of Roxanne Henderson.

Photo: A nurse prepares to inject a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Photo credit: Angel Garcia / Bloomberg

Copyright 2021 Bloomberg.

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