Several vaccines against COVID-19 have now been developed around the world. The decision whether to get vaccinated has so far been left to the individual citizens. However, there are good reasons, both in theory as well as in practice, to believe that the willingness to get vaccinated might not be sufficiently high to achieve herd immunity.
For that reason, various Companies worldwide now require staff to provide proof of vaccination. And insurers are following suit by requesting proof of vaccination when applying for new life cover, disability, dread, business assurance or any other risk cover requiring underwriting.
Discovery Life has become the first South African insurer to consider Covid-19 vaccination in its underwriting processes. The company said it is going to treat a refusal to vaccinate against Covid-19 the same way it treats smoking or lifestyle diseases such as diabetes when it determines premiums.
“Clients with new policies who indicate that they are unwilling to be vaccinated may, unfortunately, be subject to higher premiums due to the increased risk,” the company said last Thursday. These new underwriting rules kicked in on 29 July 2021. That said, Discovery is willing to adjust the premiums for unvaccinated customers who change their minds later.
“Covid-19 adds significant risk to the health of life insurance clients across all age groups, Discovery Life’s research showed that the risk of death rises far above the average population mortality rates for Covid-19 survivors in their mid-forties”. Discovery Life’s data suggested that an average 75-year-old who is fully vaccinated has a similar risk of dying from Covid-19 to a typical 40-year-old who has not been vaccinated.
Doctors and other researchers have been studying the long-term impact of Covid-19 on survivors since 2020. Organ damage and what is now officially termed “long Covid” are some of the long-lasting complications that are starting to worry insurers.
According to UJ’s Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy in South Africa survey, 67% adult participants said they would definitely or probably take a vaccine; 18% said they would definitely not or probably not take the vaccine and 15% were unsure if they would take the vaccine. White adults were least accepting, with only 56% willing or probably willing to be vaccinated, compared to 69% for Black African adults, 68% for Indian adults and 63% for Coloured adults. Those with less than matric-level education was generally more open to receiving a vaccine (72%) than those who have completed matric (62%) or have a tertiary education (59%).
The most common explanations given for not wanting to vaccinate were: concerns about side-effects (25%) and concerns about the overall effectiveness of the vaccine (18%). Explanations related to conspiracy theories or the occult did not appear frequently, 7% and 4% respectively. Concern around the vaccine is relatively high, with 53% of respondents saying they had concerns.
Whatever your view is on vaccinations, if you form part of the anti-vaccination community, we urge you to relook your risk cover as soon as possible. Covid-19 vaccination will soon become an underwriting requirement for all policies across the Insurance Industry.