Annually, seasonal influenza (flu) kills around 11 500 people in South Africa. Which is why Bonitas Medical Fund offers flu vaccines annually at no cost – to every member and beneficiary. The Fund has announced that the cost of administering the flu vaccine – as well as other vaccines covered from the risk benefit – will also be covered or subsidised for its members.
Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of contracting flu, becoming seriously ill if you do, being hospitalised and even death. Flu vaccinations are also an important conservation measure for scarce health care resources, which remain a concern during the ongoing the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Principal Officer of Bonitas, Lee Callakoppen, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also recommended that high risk groups consider having the flu vaccination in 2021, particularly because of Covid-19.
‘As part of our preventative care benefit, we offer free flu vaccinations annually to our members to help maintain their health and immunity.
‘Due to the unique circumstances created by the pandemic and our members being financially constrained, we have negotiated with our network of over 60 pharmacy groups – which include Dischem, Clicks and PnP – to cover cost of the flu administration fee, capped at R50. However, should a provider charge more than R50, the shortfall will be for the member’s account.’
He says the Scheme is financially stable and sound and has set aside funds to cover the flu vaccine – estimating around 40 000 doses will be utilised during the 2021 season – along with the administration costs.
Although the flu vaccination is free to all members, the Scheme (guided by WHO and the Department of Health) highly recommends that the following groups consider being vaccinated:
- Healthcare workers
- Individuals over the age of 65 years
- People with comorbidities like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease
- Pregnant women
- People living with HIV and AIDS
‘We believe the best and first form of defence against flu is the vaccine,’ says Callakoppen. ‘And we suggest people get vaccinated soon, ahead of the flu season – which traditionally runs from May to August because the protective antibodies take about two weeks to develop. However, we know that protocols in place for Covid-19 such as social distancing, wearing a mask, handwashing and sanitisation will also go a long way in protecting against us against getting flu.’
In addition to the free flu vaccination and as part of the preventative care benefit, Bonitas also covers the costs of a pneumococcal vaccine for beneficiaries over the age of 65 years once every 5 years and childhood immunisation, this includes the vaccine admin fee.