“Shoprite Holdings would certainly purchase for our employees to get those front-line people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Englebrecht said during an interview with Bloomberg. “There are 25 million customers through our stores every month, so one can understand how critical it is for our people to be vaccinated.”
South Africa, which started the inoculation of health-care workers last month, is likely to miss its target of vaccinating as many as 1.5 million people against the coronavirus by the end of March because sufficient shots aren’t available. While some high-risk categories of people are due to be inoculated in May, fears are mounting that a resurgence in infections will hit as the country heads into its winter months.
The Shoprite CEO isn’t the only one saying the private sector should be more active in acquiring and distributing vaccines.
In Pakistan, the Sindh government decided to engage private hospitals and laboratories in a COVID-19 mass vaccination programme and encouraged the private health sector to import coronavirus vaccine, allocate human resources and establish vaccination centres, especially in the capital, Karachi.
India and Malaysia are also considering using the private sector to speed up sluggish vaccination drives in their countries.
Indonesia aims to vaccinate 181.5 million out of the 270 million population by the end of 2021. But since the public rollout began on January 13, only one million people have been fully vaccinated with two doses. The government recently approved a plan to allow private firms to pay to independently inoculate their staff from COVID-19 and avoid the long wait for public vaccinations. The country’s health ministry says it did so to speed up herd immunity.
Indonesia’s efforts are in line with what Shoprite wants to do in Africa.
“Rather than restrict trade, which causes injury to insult with unemployment and retrenchments,” the focus needs to be on reaching so-called herd immunity to ensure the economy “can get started,” Engelbrecht said.
Shoprite employs more than 140,000 people through the operation of 2,892 stores and a network of distribution centers across Africa. While its food stores have remained open throughout South Africa’s varying degrees of lockdown, trading at its liquor, furniture and household-goods outlets have been halted at times.