1 Discovery Place has been the site of daily vaccinations in the fight against COVID-19. Discovery Health CEO, Dr. Ryan Noach took The Sandton Times on a behind-the-scenes walk through this smart, efficient and professional operation to get a sense of how the health insurance giant has stepped up to assist the national vaccine roll-out.
- 1 Discovery Place has been transformed into a highly efficient vaccination site, with the capacity to deliver over 2’500 vaccinations per day.
- Discovery will be opening further vaccination sites countrywide over the coming weeks.
- The national vaccination rollout target is 300’000 vaccinations per day.
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It’s just after 10am at 1 Discovery Place in Sandton, as a few dozen cars snake around the building – lining up to enter the vaccination site. It’s orderly in the face of a generally tumultuous period in human history and this facility, in the heart of Sandton, has managed to vaccinate in the region of 550 people every two hours since mid-May 2021. That’s over 12’000 vaccinated people at the site so far, under the care of and supervision of a full clinical team, 30 full-time vaccinators and over 100 support staff.
It’s purely a by appointment visit, as anyone who is registered on the national Department of Health’s Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) with a valid voucher number may arrive according to a schedule. Dr. Ronald Whelan, Head of Discovery’s COVID-19 Task Team (and Chief Commercial Officer at Discovery Health) joins us on the tour of the site.
Vaccinations are free for South African residents registered on the EVDS and even non-Discovery medical aid members can be vaccinated at the Sandton site. The Discovery process engineers have been hard at work, along with the communications and marketing team, as marshals, offices, and common areas are branded and marked to allow for a flowing, clear and well-ordered experience. But it’s not always smooth sailing.
A lady who has traveled a fair distance from the Sandton site had not yet received her voucher number, yet her husband had, even though both registered at the same time. The EVDS is not managed by Discovery but forms part of the Department of Health’s tracking and booking processes. Dr. Ryan Noach steps in to assist the distressed lady, to receive her vaccination, together with her spouse. The occasional walk-in, we’re told, does occur. It’s not ideal nor advisable, but in this instance, is promptly managed.
The vaccination process starts in the basement parking of 1 Discovery Place, for those arriving by car. Here individuals, who have been vetted by marshals on the way in, for their voucher number and appointment time, go through a screening process – the now common, although elevated, measuring of temperature, signs & symptoms as well as a dash of sanitizer for the hands. From here, it’s onwards to the registration area on the ground floor.
We encounter an elderly man, who has just received his vaccination and is on his way home after clearing the mandatory observation period post-injection. ‘I feel good,’ he says, ‘the anxiety was killing me’. He, like many South African’s who have passed through the centre, feels a sense of relief and peace of mind, having taken this step in the fight against the global pandemic.
With each step of the way cleaned, sanitized, and secured, the walk to registration is clearly marked with ample sign-in counters to choose from. The large open spaces within the 1 Discovery Place building make for natural social distancing. We’re lead through to the waiting area – the last point before the vaccination is administered. Spread out at a distance, a collection of chairs offer a last bit of dwell time for up to 30-minutes on busy days.
Some of those who have arrived at the centre can barely walk, aided by wheelchairs or walkers, whilst others are fit enough, to take the journey on their own. We encounter another man about to receive his injection. We ask his permission to witness the moment where he will receive his dose of the vaccine, to which he happily agrees. The vaccination process takes around 8-minutes, as a nurse takes the soon-to-be vaccinated through a series of steps, including counselling, and required paperwork before she can administer the dose.
We follow him to the final waiting area, better known as the observation area, where those who have received the vaccine are kept for some time – between 15 and 30 minutes, to be monitored by trained staff, for any possible side effects or discomforts. From here, they are free to leave.
Not even a month into the process, the vaccination site has had an impressive success rate, with nurses drawing the full 6 doses out of each vial. So far, there has been no wastage and each days vaccine requirements are carefully planned, especially towards the end of day.
Discovery’s vaccination site in Sandton uses the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The current phase of the national COVID-19 vaccination programme is open to people over the age of 60 years and healthcare workers. More sites across the country are in the process of coming online in due course.
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