Getting COVID-19 vaccination right at the workplace

Written and published by the British Safety Council, India on 20 July 2021

Ensuring the well-being of employees should be one of the main priorities for any organisation, even in the absence of a global pandemic. However, when there is one around, employee health and safety assume even greater vitality than usual. India’s brutal second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has made one thing abundantly clear — nobody can take this nasty Russian roulette of a disease for granted. On the one hand, we know that COVID-19 does not have a high fatality rate. However, as we have also seen over the last couple of months, the virus spares neither the old nor the young. For now, COVID-19 vaccinations are the only way to overcome the pandemic.

With the vaccination efforts being ramped up across the country, jabs are available more readily for all adults.

 

As an employer, you can demonstrate your commitment to the health and safety of your workers by arranging for them to get vaccinated at their workplace. Many leading organisations, such as Reliance and Wipro, have initiated vaccination drives for their employees and their dependents. Doing this would not only earn you brownie points in the minds of your employees but also allow you to commence normal on-site work operations as quickly as possible.

 

Your organisation will have to take a few steps to make the vaccination process as smooth as possible:

 

Encouraging employees to get vaccinated

Incredibly, several people in the country still have their apprehensions regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Ignorance and misinformation across the board contribute to individuals believing that taking the jab could be harmful to their health. So, the first step in the process would be to assure your workers that getting vaccinated is their best bet against the deadly coronavirus.

As always, communication is key to crack the process. Workers need to be informed in detail about what type of vaccines they will be getting (Covishield, Covaxin, Sputnik V). After that, the entire vaccination procedure must be explained in detail to them. Remember, the safety precautions taken during a vaccination drive (hand sanitising, physical distancing, everybody wearing masks) are a big part of the process. Accordingly, your workers must know that provisions for such things have been made.

Also, your workers may have questions regarding the efficacy of the vaccines. In that case, statistical data available regarding the same must be shared with them. Additionally, any concerns or doubts must be addressed promptly. Educating your staff about the potency of the vaccine can cover the following aspects:

  1. a) The training and qualifications of the people administering the jabs.
  2. b) Known side effects of the vaccine.
  3. c) How the vaccine builds your defence against the virus.
  4. d) Dispelling myths regarding the vaccine.

Perhaps most importantly, your workers must know that they will not get infected by taking the vaccination. As we know, transparency is crucial during such processes. And there is no better way to ensure transparency and confidence than open communication.

Eliminating vaccine hesitancy through encouragement is the first big hurdle for organisations to breach in order to ensure employee health and safety during this difficult time.

Implementing the actual process competently

Organisations need to follow certain government-set protocols while initiating a vaccination drive for their employees. Firstly, organisations will have to identify themselves as COVID Vaccination Centres (CVCs) before they can begin the process. One of the members of the senior staff needs to be assigned as the 'nodal officer' of your organisation. The nodal officer will carry out the vaccine registrations of employees and, if accommodated by your organisation, their immediate family members. Apart from that, they would need to facilitate the setting-up of physical infrastructure and IT resources for data collection of employees and other related work.

After that, your organisation will be identified and registered in the CoWIN portal as a government or private CVC. During this phase, the full name of the organisation must be recorded in the portal. The registration of your organisation as a CVC will be complete after a thorough verification regarding the availability of waiting, vaccination, and observation rooms in your organisation by the public body associated with the process in your region is carried out.

Once your organisation is registered, then comes the process of linking each CVC with a medical facility for the sourcing of the vaccines. The process of linking private and public workplaces with medical facilities will be carried out primarily by the local authority.

After that, factors such as the availability of cold chain points for vaccine storage, assignment of a dedicated vaccination team at the workplace, the presence of qualified medical supervisors to oversee the process, details regarding the verification of your employee’s identification documents, the diligent monitoring of the vaccination process, details regarding fees charged from your workers for each jab, among others will be handled as the process of vaccination is carried out in collaboration between your organisation, the medical facility, and the connected local authority.

This is a distilled summary of the entire process, and, for in-depth details, organisations can refer to government links such as these:

  1. Guidance on COVID-19 vaccination at workplaces (government & private)
  2. Operational Guidelines for COVID-19 Vaccines
  3. Guidance note for using COWIN 2.0 efficiently

Additionally, organisations can also visit the official government COVID-19 helpdesk to clarify doubts and keep an eye on any vaccine-related developments in the country. After eliminating any reluctance regarding vaccinations in the minds of your workers, following the process of initiating a vaccination drive by the book is essential for safeguarding employee health and safety in your organisation. Vaccinating your workers is a step towards returning to normalcy for all the stakeholders of your organisation.

Several organisations still prefer to let their employees work remotely even as the second wave is gradually abating. For such organisations, the British Safety Council provides specialised coronavirus resources to help them get through the pandemic safely. Our online course for handling stress within your work team can be of great use for organisations to maximise employee health and safety during the pandemic.