Shoprite CEO wants to procure Covid-19 vaccine for employees

By Janice Kew

(Bloomberg) – South Africa’s private sector must be allowed to secure vaccines on their own to speed-up the slow roll out of Covid-19 shots, according to the head of the continent’s biggest grocer.

Shoprite Holdings Ltd. “would certainly purchase for our employees to get those front-line people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Chief Executive Officer Pieter Engelbrecht said by phone. “There are 25 million customers through our stores every month, so one can understand how critical it is for our people to be vaccinated.”

South Africa, which started the inoculation of health-care workers last month, is likely to miss its target of vaccinating as many as 1.5 million people against the coronavirus by the end of March because sufficient shots aren’t available. While some high-risk categories of people are due to be inoculated in May, fears are mounting that a resurgence in infections will hit as the country heads into its winter months.

Shoprite employs more than 140,000 people through the operation of 2,892 stores and a network of distribution centers across Africa. While its food stores have remained open throughout South Africa’s varying degrees of lockdown, trading at its liquor, furniture and household-goods outlets have been halted at times.

“Rather than restrict trade, which causes injury to insult with unemployment and retrenchments,” the focus needs to be on reaching so-called herd immunity to ensure the economy “can get started,” Engelbrecht said.

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