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Apr 19, 2020

The world has been changed by the modern advancements of vaccines and immunisations to some of the most devastating diseases, infections and viruses the world has ever seen. And to celebrate these medical feats, the World Health Organization (WHO) established World Immunisation Week – celebrated in the last week of April (24 to 30 April) and the theme this year is #VaccinesWork for All.

This is one of the organisation’s many initiatives and it aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. From the annual flu vaccine to measles and even polio, immunisation saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognised as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions. Yet, there are still approximately 20 million children in the world today who are not getting the vaccines they need.

Vaccines in the context of the Novel Coronavirus

Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is a vaccine against tuberculosis (TB), developed in the early 1920s, registered in South Africa. It has protective non-specific effects against other respiratory tract infections. In clinical trials, the BCG vaccine has been proven to train your immune system which allows it to react faster and more efficiently to infections from bacteria and viruses.

Scientists think the reason the BCG vaccine acts as a general immune booster is because it is a “live” vaccine. Although many countries around the world have abandoned mass BCG vaccination due to waning TB diagnoses, South Africa has continued with this vaccination due to the very high TB rates. While there is no certainty yet, indications are that the BCG vaccination may reduce the morbidity and mortality of people during the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak in South Africa and other countries that still participate in mass BCG vaccines.

South Africa is a developing country and unlike China, the capacity of hospital personnel in South Africa is limited, with large deficits of nursing staff and doctors. So, the safety, health and fitness of existing medical professionals is imperative to allow us to keep up with the pandemic. Researchers hope the BCG immunisation will turbo-charge the immune system such that it is in a heightened state of readiness and able to detect and destroy the virus before it wreaks havoc in the body. It will be assessed for its ability to mitigate the prevalence and the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

According to preliminary research,  “There had been speculation that countries without a continued policy of vaccinating against TB could have an up to 10 times higher risk in terms of COVID-19 positive cases including a higher pneumonia complication rate, such countries include the US, Italy and Spain. Countries that do have such a policy have shown a much lower rate e.g. Japan, India and South Africa. This is not a proven fact but if it turns out to be true could have a significant impact on the road ahead for us.”

Bestmed Vaccine Benefits

Bestmed Medical Scheme believes in the value that vaccines can bring in efforts to support the health and well-being of individuals and communities and the age-old anecdote that prevention is better than cure. For this reason, we offer a wide range of vaccines available on different options as part of our preventative care benefits. The annual flu vaccine, pneumonia and HPV vaccinations are available across all options. We continually encourage our members to make use of these benefits through education and communication that informs them of the benefits of immunisations.

All our savings, capitation and comprehensive options offer paediatric immunisations that follow the vaccine schedule as provided by the South African Department of Health. The benefit is paid from scheme risk at 100% scheme tariff, meaning that the cost of the immunisations does not affect the member’s savings or day to day benefits. Our comprehensive options also cover the Haemophilus Influenzae Type B vaccine (HIB), travel vaccines and a list of other vaccines.

From preventing diseases, viruses and infections that have once plagued the world at one point or another to boosting our immune system against new bacteria, vaccines and immunisations have changed the world for the better. May we take this week to celebrate how vaccines – and the people who develop, deliver and receive them – are heroes by continuously working to protect the health of everyone, everywhere.

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