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Discovery’s mandatory jabs policy sends staff vaccination rates soaring

The COVID-19 vaccination rate among Discoveryʼs SA employees has risen from barely a fifth to 94% in the three months since it announced plans to make jabs compulsory from 1 January, CEO Adrian Gore has said.

The health and life insurer company was working hard to persuade staff who were resisting vaccination to change their minds, but accepted that some might ultimately leave their jobs. “Thatʼs inevitable. We are saving lives. We have to do the right thing,” Gore said.

Business Day reports that by Friday (26 November), 583 of Discoveryʼs 9,919 SA-based employees had yet to get vaccinated: 246 said they planned to do so and 337 had formally objected.

Discovery was one of the first JSE-listed companies to introduce a mandatory vaccination policy and was followed by others that now include Mediclinic and Life Healthcare, and insurers Sanlam and Old Mutual. Several universities have followed suit, including Wits, the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape and the University of the Free State, but the government has yet to require its employees to get immunised.

The detection last week of the new Omicron variant, and rapidly rising cases in SA have come as the government scrambles to shore up flagging demand for vaccines. Despite abundant supplies and more than 2,000 vaccination sites around the country, daily rates have fallen from a high of 280,000 to about 120,000. In addition, only 36% of the adult population is fully immunised.

It is too soon to be sure, but there is “general consensus” that even if vaccines are less effective at preventing the spread of Omicron, they provide good protection against severe disease, Discovery chief commercial officer Ronald Whelan said.

Discovery has presented real-world data showing that three months after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose regimen, the 1,2m vaccinated members of schemes administered by Discovery Health had a 79% reduced risk of infection compared with unvaccinated people. If they did get COVID-19, they were 92% less likely to be admitted to hospital and 94% less likely to die than those who had not been inoculated.

If Discovery could convince 40% of the employees with objections, and 63% of those who said they planned to get vaccinated to do so, 97% of staff could be immunised by the peak of the fourth wave, it said.

COVID-19 has already led to 15,000 deaths among members of schemes administered by Discovery Health, and has killed 22 of its employees.


Business Day article – Discovery mandatory vaccination policy drives surge in staff jab rate (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Busa seeks declaratory order on mandatory workplace vaccinations


Discovery’s move on staff vaccination adds impetus to ‘proof of vaccination’ policies


Mediclinic and Life Healthcare mandate vaccination for staff and service providers


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