The government has laid out its vaccination plans for South Africa, which will take almost the entire year to complete.
This has created anxiety and aggravation among a number of South Africans who are eager to reduce their COVID-19 risk and get on with life.
GETTING VACCINATED OVERSEAS
Last week, South Africa’s richest man, Johann Rupert, travelled to Switzerland to receive his jab of the COVID-19 vaccine in that country – jumping the queue ahead of Swiss nationals. This caused fury among the Swiss nation, who are being vaccinated according to a phased process.
It is reported several countries have procured more doses of the vaccine than they actually require. Canada is said to have enough vaccines to treat each person in its population five times.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called for the equitable distribution of vaccines, referring to the vaccines as a global public resource.
SOUTH AFRICA’S PHASED VACCINATION STRATEGY
Vaccines will not be available immediately for the entire population. A prioritisation system will be implemented and vaccination will occur in three phases. Phase one will target 1.25 million people, and will include public and private healthcare workers.
Phase two will target a larger portion of the population. These include essential workers like police officers; teachers; retail workers; people in prisons and shelters; people aged 60 and older; and people older than 18 with co-morbidities. This phase will see about 17 million people vaccinated.
Phase three will focus on the rest of the population and people under 18. The government estimates 40 million people will be vaccinated over a 12-month period.
The problem is that this will take a lengthy period of time to complete. Also, the South African government has only managed to secure 20 million doses of the vaccine, meaning 10 million South Africans can receive the two doses required for vaccination against COVID-19.
SOUTH AFRICA’S LENGTHY VACCINATION PLAN
Government’s delay in procuring vaccines and laying out a formal plan to vaccinate the nation has led to much criticism. Experts warn of third and fourth waves of infection occurring in 2021 due to the length of time needed to vaccinate the population.
Chairperson of the South African Medical Association, Dr Angelique Coetzee, said it was unlikely the average South African would be vaccinated before the middle of 2021.
The possibility of third and fourth waves of COVID-19 infections, and the risk of becoming infected with more infectious variants of the Coronavirus, are among the concerns South Africans have.
EXTENDED WAIT FOR VACCINE DRIVES FEAR AND ANXIETY
Impatience and anxiety caused by a lengthy rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine may force some South Africans to look beyond the country’s borders.
A prolonged risk of infection while South Africa’s vaccination programme is slowly rolled out, and the delay of herd immunity as a result, may drive people with the means to fast-forward their vaccinations against COVID-19.
This they may do by taking trips to destinations outside of South Africa where they can secure vaccinations.
ELITE CLUBS OFFER VACCINATION TRIPS
Several high-income countries have already procured large amounts of the vaccine. This means they have surpluses that can be sold to individuals from outside the country.
Elite travel companies and private clubs are offering vaccination trips to destinations where individuals who are willing to travel outside their countries can be vaccinated, provided they are prepared to pay a premium.
Stuart McNeill, founder of Knightsbridge Circle, said: “I’m delighted that Knightsbridge Circle is the first service in the world to offer the vaccine privately.”
According to Forbes, private members-only club Knightsbridge Circle, headquartered in the UK, has begun offering vaccination vacations to its global members. Club membership comes at a hefty price of £25,000 (about R520,000) a year.
SUPER RICH ARE GETTING VACCINATED OVERSEAS
According to Forbes, vaccination trips to destinations that offer private vaccinations are available at a premium cost from £40,000 (about R855,000) per person. This includes a first-class or private charter flight to a destination where private vaccinations are offered.
“Knightsbridge Circle’s clients are based all over the globe, with 40% currently living in the UK. If it is possible to do so with the travel restrictions, we can arrange a trip to Dubai, where they receive the first shot, we source accommodation for 30 nights and the client then receives their second shot before flying home,” Mc Neill said.
VACCINATION VACATIONS WITH PRIVATE JETS AND LUXURY HOTELS
Vaccination vacation trips include the administration of two doses of the vaccine. After the first dose, guests will spend time in luxury accommodation until they will receive the second dose of the vaccination.
The destinations on offer currently include Dubai for the Pfizer vaccination and India for the Astra Zeneca vaccine.
Given the cost of these trips, and the hefty price of membership to a private club, it would only be the super-rich who might be willing to pay for the privilege of jumping the queue to receive early vaccinations.
The rest of us mere mortals will have to take our chances and pray that the government’s vaccine strategy goes according to plan without any further delays.