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Vaccination works, Momentum’s death claims data shows

Vaccination works, Momentum’s death claims data shows

Unvaccinated people are significantly more at risk of severe illness and death than those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, death claims data from Momentum Life Insurance has shown.

Stephen van Niekerk, head of Momentum Life Insurance, said its analysis of Momentum’s Covid-19 death claims over two months before September found that less than two out of every 100 of the lives lost were fully vaccinated. In other words, 98% of death claims were for unvaccinated or only partly vaccinated people. Momentum paid out claims of almost R1 billion.

Furthermore, in the first wave, 8% of the Covid-19-related death claims Momentum processed were from front-line healthcare professionals. This has since decreased to 2% in the third wave.

Front-line health workers were among the first people in South Africa to be vaccinated from 17 February.

In terms of claims for income protection products, which cater for temporary illness, almost 60% of Covid-19-related claims Momentum paid during the first wave came from healthcare professionals. This reduced to about 30% during the third wave.

Van Niekerk said the reduction could be attributed to the initial vaccine roll-out, of which healthcare practitioners formed part.

“With the efficacy of vaccines not at 100%, it is possible that, as the pandemic continues, there may be more death claims from vaccinated people. However, we would like to stress that, based on our experience, the risk of severe illness, hospitalisation and ICU care and death, is significantly less in fully vaccinated people.

“If one considers the claims experience relative to the percentage of the population that is likely to be vaccinated, according to our claims experience to date, you are 50 times more likely to die from Covid-19 as a non-vaccinated person compared to a fully vaccinated person.

“For example, if you have 100 friends and half of them are against getting vaccinated and all your friends become infected with Covid-19, statistically speaking all your unvaccinated friends will pass away due to Covid before more than one of your fully vaccinated friends will. Vaccination works, full stop,” said Van Niekerk.

He said another indication of the value of being vaccinated is that during the current (third) wave, the virus affected more people between the ages of 40 and 60, a younger average age group than before. “Our claims numbers started showing more of an impact in this younger age group, as the elderly in older age groups had largely been vaccinated already and their contribution to our claims experience has consequently reduced in the latest wave.

“In the UK, the number of vaccinated people surged to 64% between December 2020 and May 2021, and the UK’s third wave of Covid-19 infections in May was much more muted than the first two waves. Infections went up during the third wave. However, the hospitalisations and death rates have remained stable. We know there’s going to be a light at the end of the tunnel if more people are vaccinated.”

Van Niekerk said that to date 73% of Momentum staff who belong to Momentum Health Medical Scheme have been vaccinated.

“If you use that as a proxy for all staff, we can safely say that our average is already quite high.”

Momentum’s South African life insurance businesses paid R10.7 billion in mortality claims (gross of reinsurance and tax) in the year to June 30, 2021, compared to an average of R5.6bn a year over the three years preceding the pandemic.

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