What happens when you walk into a vaccination site? We break it down

On 4 June, the national health department issued a circular on how Covid-19 vaccination sites should handle “walk-ins”. We answer four questions about what this means for people trying to secure a jab without an appointment.

  1. Who can register to receive a Covid-19 vaccine?

Right now, Covid-19 vaccines are only available to people of 60 and older and healthcare workers. The health department will make an announcement when other age groups become eligible.

People aged 60 and older who want to get vaccinated need to register on the government’s electronic vaccine data system (EVDS). There are five ways to register: on the internet, on WhatsApp, using USSD code on your phone, in-person at a vaccination site and through community health workers sent to your area by the department of health. The Western Cape also has 75 centres with computers, internet access and assistants where people can register. 

Once registered you will get an initial SMS confirming your registration. A second SMS will provide details of your appointment. Vaccine sites are encouraged to notify you of your appointment at least three days before it is scheduled, when possible.

At this stage, healthcare workers can’t register on the EVDS. Instead, a new registration platform has been set-up for health workers at www.v4hcw.co.za.

This new platform was created to prevent people from falsely registering on the system as healthcare workers. It was created by the national health department and the Unity Forum for Family Practitioners.

All healthcare workers who have already registered with their professional body and who were previously registered on the EVDS will automatically be transferred to this new database.

Details of how healthcare workers who are not registered with a professional body such as the South African Medical Association or the South African Nursing Council can register will be announced by the health department soon.

  1. Can you walk into a vaccination site?

Yes — but only if you are in the current qualifying category set by the department of health. At this time that only applies to people over the age of 60. It is up to the vaccine site manager to decide if they will accept walk-ins on a particular day.

But accepting walk-ins does come with a few rules: 

  • Those with scheduled appointments are first up to get a shot. Site managers need to make sure that there is enough stock for scheduled appointments to be vaccinated before they allow walk-ins to get the jab.
  • Even if you’re a walk-in, you still have to be registered on the EVDS. Should you arrive without registering, you must first sign up on the system before you can get a jab. Don’t forget to bring a proof of age in the form of your ID book, passport or driver’s licence.
  • You are not guaranteed to get a vaccine on the day you walk in and may be asked to return on another day.
  • Sites are encouraged to have a separate queue for walk-ins so that scheduled appointments can be prioritised.

3. Does anything change if you don’t have medical aid?

Vaccine sites in the public and private sectors can choose to accept walk-ins, but there’s a catch.

For the most part, the government won’t pay for walk-ins of people without medical aid at private vaccine sites. So if you’re a walk-in at a private sector site and you’re not covered by medical aid, it is likely that you will be referred to a public sector site such as a government hospital.

The only exception applies to people over the age of 80, who will be covered by the state if they don’t have medical aid. But the government has placed a limit on how many people in this group will be covered. Only 5% of a site’s allocated doses may go towards these walk-ins and still be covered by the government.

For example, if a private sector site is allocated enough vaccines for 100 people, they can vaccinate five uninsured people over the age of 80 and the state will pay for those vaccinations. The sixth person over 80 to walk-in will probably be referred to a public sector site or told to return on another day. 

This only applies to people who decide to walk-in at a private vaccine site. Should you be allocated to a private site by EVDS — even without medical aid — the government will cover the cost of your vaccine.

4. How much does it cost to get vaccinated?

It is free to get a Covid-19 vaccine — regardless of your insurance. No one may be charged anything at a vaccination site when receiving their jab.

The vaccine cost will be covered by the state for those without insurance or by your medical aid scheme, if you belong to one.

The EVDS will automatically assign patients without medical insurance to public sites and those with medical aid to private sites. Only in cases where there is no space at a site will this rule not be followed. 

The cost of vaccinations of all people without insurance, who are given appointments at a private site, will be covered by the government.

If you belong to a medical scheme and are assigned to a public site, your medical aid would have to cover the cost.

This story was produced by the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism. Sign up for the newsletter.

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