As the pandemic continues to upend our lives, South Africans are facing issues they could never have predicted two years ago.
What started as a health threat across the world quickly morphed into something much bigger, not just impacting our physical and mental wellbeing - but also wreaking havoc on our financial health.
Tragically, those who were most vulnerable to begin with have been hit the hardest. Ernest Zamisa, Financial Adviser at Momentum says, “The country’s lack of financial literacy has seriously compounded the impact of this crisis—and now, as so many South Africans face unprecedented financial stress, it is imperative that we make health a national priority.“
Is there light at the end of the pandemic tunnel in the form of vaccines?
As South Africa’s vaccine rollout programme gradually gains pace, Zamisa says there seems to be a concurrent and growing trend of opposition against the use of vaccines, primarily based on false information. The United Nations (UN) has termed this misinformation an “infodemic”, with fallacies ranging from the vaccine altering human DNA, to it causing infertility and even fatality.
“The advent of this vaccine hesitancy threatens to needlessly hamper the country’s efforts to achieve herd immunity.”
Not only could this counter-movement have serious public health implications, but he says there is a strong case to be made for the fact that it could damage many consumers’ financial wellbeing.
Vaccine hesitancy on the rise
A survey, published by the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council, suggests that only about 52% of South Africans would definitely take the vaccine. Among the group that expressed their doubts over vaccination, 25% raised concerns over the potential side effects and 18% did not believe that the vaccines were effective. Then there is the 11% that cited conspiracies or occult reasons for their hesitancy.
“What this means is that variants will continue to spread, and more people will die. Each Covid-19 case requires weeks of costly rehabilitation. Even after the pandemic fades, millions of vaccine refusers could turn into hundreds of thousands of patients who need extra care, should they come down with the virus,” says Zamisa.
Misinformation and the growing need for sound financial decision making
According to Zamisa, these beliefs are even more insidious than one may think since there is a very real financial side to opting out of vaccination. “Financial advisers could play an extremely valuable role in helping people to look at the information objectively and help them to come to the right decisions. Momentum, for one, supports the scientific view of the protective power of vaccines.”
Consider the fact that the cost of illness (such as Covid-19) can have a massive impact on one’s finances that far outweighs the risk of possible vaccine side effects. He says, “Your ability to work, save and plan for your financial future could also be significantly impacted if you or a member of your family becomes severely ill. While there are financial products that cover this risk (and insurers do not require clients to be vaccinated as a condition of cover), these products can only do so much. The best way to ensure your financial wellbeing is to make the right decisions. This includes having a valid and executable will; dying without one can have far-reaching consequences.”
People who give into misinformation and refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccine will have higher healthcare costs, which means somebody has to pay for that decision: “You’ll pay for that individual’s decisions in insurance premiums, if he has a plan with your provider. The vaccine refusers could cost us billions. Maybe more, over the next few decades, with all the complications they could develop. And we can’t do anything about it except hope that more people get their vaccinations than those who say they will right now.”
Preparing your insurance portfolio for the real costs of Covid-19
At the same time, one should also remember that the country’s vaccine rollout is still far from complete, so it is crucial to have financial plans in place with adequate cover to provide for loved ones, should the unthinkable happen.
This virus is a threat to all people. While the cost of death is difficult to quantify, Zamisa says significant expenses arise when someone dies. “There are funeral expenses, estate duty, and executors’ fees that simply have to be paid. Then there are the regular monthly bills and expenses to cover. The list goes on and on.”
More specialised options address the estate administration costs and professional fees associated with a loved one passing away. If that person was also the breadwinner, specialised life cover options exist to replace that loss of income.
Understanding the financial burden of a pandemic
Rising costs and increasing debt have put South Africans under immense financial pressure, and the onset of Covid-19 has made this even more acute.
More than half of credit-active consumers in South Africa are in arrears, and many are trapped in a debt spiral. Struggling with debt means cutting down on expenses, insurance and savings, and can impact one’s prospects of creating wealth.
Zamisa concludes, “We understand that this is an unprecedented time and one that can leave you with many questions unanswered about Covid-19 and its future impact. For sound and knowledgeable financial advice about how any eventuality can affect your finances and help or harm you on your journey to success, it is always good advice to speak to an accredited financial adviser.”
The latest updates about the Covid-19 vaccine can be found on the Momentum website.