Pharmacy giants gear up for jabs rollout
● Clicks and Dis-Chem are gearing up for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout as soon as stock is available — their distribution centres are ready and they plan to augment facilities at stores in order to administer vaccines.
Dis-Chem executive director Saul Saltzman said this week that the retail chain is planning for the next stage of the vaccine rollout.
This is in partnership with Business for SA (B4SA) and the department of health. The company is in negotiation with landlords and retailers as well as nursing agencies to augment the vaccination services that the 191 Dis-Chem stores plan to provide.
Vikesh Ramsunder, CEO of Clicks Group, said it has a network of more than 600 pharmacies and 192 clinics in SA to support the programme. He said 62 Clicks pharmacies registered to assist in phase 1 of the programme to vaccinate health-care workers.
Clicks and Dis-Chem will also be able to distribute vaccines to other vaccination sites.
Ramsunder said the Clicks Group is working closely with the relevant authorities and organisations involved in the national vaccine rollout programme to provide support through Clicks and UPD.
UPD, SA’s largest pharmaceutical wholesaler — and which is owned by Clicks — has the infrastructure to assist in the distribution of temperature-sensitive vaccines, he said.
With six warehouses in SA, UPD supplies Clicks’s pharmaceutical needs, as well as those of big hospital groups, wholesalers and 1,250 independent pharmacies. In August 2020 UPD’s wholesale market share was 29.4%. In the past financial year, the company distributed 331-million units of medicine.
Dis-Chem, also in negotiation with the government, has distribution centres in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Delmas, Mpumalanga, that supply its stores and hospitals, clinics, Local Choice retail pharmacies and independent pharmacies.
Chantal Marx, head of investment research at FNB, said using Dis-Chem and Clicks as part of the vaccine rollout is “a very clever way of scaling distribution and makes perfect sense”.
Clicks and Dis-Chem “won’t be making any money”, she said, as they can’t charge the patient for the vaccine or for administering it — these costs will be claimed from the state. But she expects in-store sales to spike as the newly vaccinated wait the required 15 minutes after the jab to ensure that there are no side-effects.
Those older than 60 were asked to register for the vaccine from Friday on the department of health’s Electronic Vaccination Data System. Registration has until now been for health-care workers only.
The second phase, due to be launched on May 17 and run until October this year, is receiving support from the private sector.
Stavros Nicolaou, head of B4SA, said its health working group’s work streams include teams responsible for the rollout of private sector sites that will feed into the national sites programme. These sites will assist the government in vaccinating an estimated 5-million people aged over 60, 8million under 60 with co-morbidities, 2.5million essential workers and 1.1-million people who live in congregate settings.
B4SA said the private sector can vaccinate about 163,000 people a day at various sites. To reach the government’s phase 2 target of 16-million vaccinations, 250,000-300,000 people a day will need to be vaccinated.