The Compensation Fund and mutual assurance companies Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA) and Federated Employer's Mutual Assurance (FEMA) have joined forces to contribute R1.35 billion to procure vaccines for workers without medical aid cover.
The Department of Employment and Labour, of which the Compensation Fund is an agency, said the funding is anticipated to contribute towards the vaccinations under phase 2 of an estimated three million workers of the country's vaccination programme.
"[This is] is a significant contribution to the government's plan to inoculate about 75% of the population to reach the 67% herd immunity target," the department said in a statement.
The initiative forms part of the ongoing collaboration between the public and private sectors to plug the vaccine rollout's financial gaps programme.
It will also help ensure a significant part of workers gets inoculated instead of dealing with resultant claims.
Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, announcing the partnership during the tabling of the Department's Budget Vote on Friday, expressed delight at the partnership.
"We are humbled and grateful for the support that the boards of the CF, the RMA and FEMA have demonstrated in pledging support for the department's plan to ensure protection of workers through the vaccine rollout programme.
"This selfless gesture demonstrates the milestones that can be achieved when all social partners work towards a common purpose and vision," he said.
Nxesi said the COVID-19 vaccination programme was unprecedented and is one of the biggest and most expansive national programmes government has undertaken.
"As government, we cannot successfully carry out this mammoth task on our own. We need all hands on deck to ensure that we can prevail over this pandemic," said the Minister.
He expressed his gratitude to chief executives of the two entities and the Board of Healthcare Funders of Southern Africa for working closely with government in ensuring the objective of this contribution is achieved.
"This marks an important turning point in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Our view is that if we can have more parties on board to support in a similar vein. We can help government in bridging some of the funding gaps in the procuring of vaccinations.
"If we work together, we can all play a significant role in providing a much-needed safety net for millions of vulnerable workers who do not have the means to fund their vaccinations or afford private healthcare cover.
"We aim to collectively make a meaningful contribution to the fight against the coronavirus by ensuring that as many people as possible are vaccinated for the country to meet herd immunity targets," said Nxesi.
The department said the decision to fund the vaccine for uninsured workers marks a "proactive intervention" by the three entities that the government is taking to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In just over a year, the CF, in compliance with the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act as well as the Workplace-Acquired COVID-19 Directive issued Nxesi in July, has received 22 333 COVID-19 claims. Of these, the fund accepted liability for 11 466 claims.
Of those, 71 are in relation to fatalities, while R57 million has been spent in support of workers through medical aid, funeral costs, and benefits for dependants as well as in temporary total disablement.
The department said the majority of the workers who will benefit from this initiative are mainly the vulnerable workers, who have the least resources to mitigate against the loss of income. This was irrespective of whether the employment was temporary or permanent but resulted from hospitalisation due to COVID-19 infection.
"The ripple effects of the financial burden they face are felt by their extended families, who rely on them for their livelihood," the department said.