The ongoing approval, distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines around the world brings a sense of hope as we continue our journey through this pandemic. However, there are existing realities that need to be kept in view. Some countries are more advanced in the distribution and administration while others continue to struggle. Dr. Carrianne Ewe, Medical Director, International SOS Philippines, shared insights on the importance of keeping business, both physical and e-commerce, going amidst the pandemic with proper and immediate vaccination.
In the Philippines, the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign began in March with the prioritization of medical front liners. The Department of Health recently confirmed the detection of a new coronavirus variant P3 that is unique to the country. Its relative transmissibility and severity of disease caused has yet to be established. This new variant along with the surge of daily cases pose questions and challenges not only to the public but to organizations as well.
Over the last few months, International SOS has been working with numerous organizations around the world providing by assistance on how to facilitate the vaccination for their entire workforce. Among the many considerations that organizations are navigating, companies are now considering how best to educate their workforce about COVID-19 vaccinations; how to help them actively navigate the infodemic and misinformation; how vaccination might impact upon testing and quarantine protocols; and what impact the vaccine could have on international and domestic travel.
Many issues remain unclear for many organizations. Should they simply support COVID-19 vaccinations at strategic level, or should they support particular geographies, such as those in locations with a less comprehensive vaccine strategy? Should they encourage or actively provide access to COVID-19 vaccine for employees? What about contractors or visitors that are crucial to operations? Should families be considered? How does citizenship or residency impact this? What are the ethical issues to agree upon before embarking upon a corporate vaccination strategy?
While it will take time before the vaccines are made available to the general public in the Philippines, it is important for organizations to be prepared with a holistic vaccination strategy in place. Doing so not only ensures business continuity but also builds employee confidence.We have compiled some of the key approaches we recommend organizations consider below.
Assisting in defining local guidelines
Organizations play an important role in communicating these instructions and can help define these guidelines by:
· Providing communication materials to the local workforce on priority groups and the steps local employees should take to receive the vaccine recommended by health authorities
· Emphasizing the importance and benefit of the local recommended vaccine(s)
· Offering an opportunity for question and answer with a trained health professional
· Providing materials on the recommended vaccine in their country, how many doses are required, or the need for boosters
· In some countries, creating positive incentives to receive a vaccine may be permissible, based on local legislation (e.g. vaccination tracker, recognition etc)
· In some countries, employers may be permitted (or expected) to identify those in higher priority groups that should be given access to vaccination first
· In some countries, requesting vaccine certificates may be permissible, or may even be required in future under health and safety regulations
Providing employees tools to navigate the system
Providing employees and managers with the latest information on vaccine developments can help ease concern and allay anxiety. This can take the form of:
· Providing employees and managers with assistance on how to access a vaccine in their location to help speed up access
· Facilitating employees accessing vaccination, either in terms of flexible working arrangements or paid time off
· Reducing logistical challenges by offering administrative support to relieve pressure on managers
· Assisting employees to resolve any language barriers which can be especially helpful for international assignees
· Providing access to medical advice to help employees decision-make especially if choices are needing to be made on the type of vaccine, or in which country a vaccine could be accessed.
Assisting with vaccine procurement and enabling access
With the risk of fake vaccines and forged vaccination passports ever present, enabling quality oversight of any vaccine program has never been more important. Employers can address this by:
· Providing a verified global overview of current vaccination availability and strategies being rolled out
· Assisting managers to navigate potential issues around vaccine quality and identify suitable local providers
· Providing access to the vaccine through a reputable external provider (e.g. nurse on site or office vaccination clinics), which may become available in some countries
· Understanding where international assignees might be able to avail of national vaccination programs in their country of residence, and assisting them to enable access
Those who are interested on International SOS consulting services and corporate vaccine programs, they may visit the website – https://www.internationalsos.com/about-us/our-approach