Vaccinating as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, is critical for saving SA’s economy, businesses, and livelihoods — all while boosting social development.
This is according to speakers at a multi-stakeholder webinar on the role of vaccines in economic and social recovery.
The speakers included Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach, Afrika Tikkun Group CEO Marc Lubner and University of the Free State chancellor Prof Bonang Mohale. The webinar was organised by youth development non-profit organisation Afrika Tikkun.
Noach said that the longer it took to speed up a full-blown Covid-19 vaccination campaign, the longer it would take before economic, financial, and social recovery could occur.
“The fact that AstraZeneca vaccines SA received earlier this month are ineffective against protecting people from the 501Y.V2 mutation, and are near their expiration date, is making the situation even more problematic,” said Noach.
He was referring to confirmation at the weekend that the AstraZeneca vaccine was not effective against mild and moderate infection from the current dominant strain of Covid-19 in SA. It was likely, however, experts said, that it would be effective against severe infection.
Noach said achieving herd immunity as soon as possible would have an immediate impact on the macroeconomy.
“It helps our GDP grow, and businesses work and hire again. Vaccinating saves lives from all sides, hence the rush and urgency to get it done,” Noach said.
Mohale agreed with Noach.
“Our debt stands at R3tn, we are borrowing R2.1bn, and our debt to GDP ratio is 93%. Including government guarantees to state-owned enterprises, this ratio rises to 103%. Last year’s GDP growth won’t exceed -7%,” he said.
Mohale said the figure that should frighten people was the unemployment rate, which stood at around 40% before Covid-19 for the general population and north of 60% for youths.
“When you include individuals, who have given up their job hunt, and the 2.5 million jobs shed in 2020, it looks like we will lose more people through socio-economic devastation than through the virus,” Mohale said.
“Only through collaboration can we deal with the mess we are finding ourselves in.
“Instead of pointing fingers, we need to accept where we are today, work towards a future together, and do what we can to push egos and bureaucracy aside. We don’t have the time to allow egos to stand in the way, as this is literally a situation of life and death,” said Afrika Tikkun Group CEO Marc Lubner.
Lubner stressed that a successful vaccination campaign’s key pillar is solid partnerships between government, private businesses, civil society, and other stakeholders.
He said collaboration between government and other stakeholders was not just essential to fast-track a speedy vaccine rollout, but also to combat the pandemic’s vast and far-reaching socio-economic implications.
Mohale said another reason businesses’ involvement is pivotal is because they have the capacity and expertise to help roll out large-scale projects.
“Companies are good at managing mega-projects, on time and within the budget. Take AB InBev, the old SABMiller. It supplies twice as many shebeens as there are schools in the country. They deliver successfully to each of these businesses every single week. We also have massive courier and logistics companies that have cold trucks that can maintain the cold chain to keep the vaccines safe.” he said.
Lubner said there was an enormous need to educate, skill, and train youth for job opportunities.
“All stakeholders must continue to join hands as this will be the only way to move forward as a country,” he said.