Vaccination against COVID-19 is our best shot

 

Every single vaccination helps us reach population immunity, which helps individuals, communities and the country, writes Vitality's Head of Wellness Dr Mosima Mabunda.

We are now at an inflection point of the COVID-19 pandemic. While there has been extensive disruption and trauma to our lives, we now have a glimmer of hope: the imminent wide-scale rollout of South Africa's COVID-19 vaccination programme. It is up to each of us to decide to overcome COVID-19. Here's why getting your vaccination is important.

We must embrace vaccinations

Vaccination is a global health success story. Two to three million lives are saved every year by vaccinations. They reduce the burden of more than 20 life-threatening diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, flu and measles. Thanks to vaccines, we don't feel the full impact of these diseases today - and it would be wonderful if we could soon say the same for COVID-19.

We know that vaccines are safe. Vaccines are given to people who are otherwise healthy and free from the disease, so the bar for vaccine safety is extremely high. Side effects - if any, are caused by the immune system responding to the vaccine - are usually mild and short-lived.

Conversely, the benefits of vaccines are substantial. For example, a study on flu vaccination, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found:

  • Flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to the hospital with flu by 37%.
  • Flu vaccination was even more effective in preventing the most severe forms of flu, reducing the risk of being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) with flu by 82%.

The impact of vaccines can also be measured in economic terms. For instance, in the case of childhood vaccinations in low-income countries, for every US dollar invested in vaccination, USD44 is expected to be saved in healthcare costs, lost wages and lost productivity due to illness and death, among other broader benefits. These savings can in turn be reinvested into healthcare.

We can trust the science

Vaccines work by introducing small, inactive parts of a pathogen (such as a virus or bacteria) into the body (or, in the case of mRNA vaccines, the blueprints for making these parts). This stimulates the immune system and prepares the body to fight that virus or bacteria effectively if we come into contact with it later.

We might wonder how the COVID-19 vaccines came about so quickly. Remarkable technology has fuelled the development of the various vaccines against the coronavirus. Since the start of the pandemic, scientists around the world began their work on creating the vaccine. They followed the same rigorous testing process that all vaccines must go through. This includes large clinical trials, involving tens of thousands of people, to identify any potential side effects and risks.

We need to remember that vaccine developers had a head start thanks to years of previous research on related viruses (such as SARS and MERS) and the large amount of funding made available for vaccine development. The mRNA technology used to prepare some COVID-19 vaccines is quicker than traditional methods of making vaccines.

What can COVID-19 vaccines do for us and the country?

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine significantly reduces your chances of becoming infected. Additionally, if you do get infected, it lowers your risk of infecting others and becoming severely ill. Most COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be very effective in preventing severe illness and death.

Experience in other countries with the COVID-19 vaccines conclusively demonstrates that, in the rare case of becoming infected after being vaccinated, those who have been vaccinated have a lower chance of developing serious symptoms from COVID-19.

For the vaccine to work effectively, we as a country must achieve herd immunity. This means enough of us must be immune to the disease to prevent the virus from spreading. It's estimated that around 67% of the South African population (40 million people) would need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

Why Discovery supports the vaccine programme

We support vaccination because it makes people healthier by preventing infections and severe diseases. When people are healthier, society benefits - each vaccination counts towards herd immunity.

Discovery is committed to supporting its members and the national rollout programme. We will share information with all South Africans through the COVID-19 information hub and other communication channels.

Are you #VaccineReadySA?

Millions of people across the world have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines. In light of what we know about the benefits of vaccines, we are excited about the imminent rollout of vaccines to the rest of the population in South Africa and hopeful at this stage of the fight against the pandemic.

Here's how the rollout will work in South Africa:

  • Vaccines will be administered in phases, based on a national prioritisation framework. This phased approach ensures those who are most vulnerable and at-risk are vaccinated first.
  • Phase 2 vaccination efforts will focus mainly on the elderly and other vulnerable sections of the population. They will probably start in the third or fourth week of May 2021.
  • Phase 3 vaccination efforts will focus on the rest of the population and will probably start in November 2021.
  • Vaccines will be administered in accredited vaccination sites across the country, including pharmacies, GP practices, hospitals and dedicated mass vaccination sites. Discovery is also setting up several dedicated vaccination sites to support the rollout.
  • To get the vaccination, you will need to be registered on the national Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS).
  • All Discovery clients need to do to get your COVID-19 vaccine is to register on Discovery's COVID-19 Vaccination Portal. By registering on Discovery's COVID-19 Vaccination Portal you will automatically be registered on the national Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) to make the process easier for you.
  • Once you're registered we will support you with all the information you need at every step of your vaccination journey.
  • Vaccines are free for all South Africans. Medical schemes will cover the cost for their members and the National Department of Health will cover the cost for those not on medical schemes.

Remember, this is a shared-value initiative - getting vaccinated will help you, society and our country. It is up to you to decide which side of history you choose to be on. Can we count you in?

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