I would like to see all companies in South Africa doing their best to encourage employees and the general public to get vaccinated. This is in our own best interest as a business – we can never confidently overcome this pandemic if we don’t increase vaccination rates across the country.
Obviously, there has been a lot of debate about vaccine mandates. Companies like Discovery have shown how powerful they can be, having their staff vaccinated rate reach 94%. Other companies have followed suit, although I am sure there will be legal proof of the principles. Organized companies are working to obtain legal clarity as soon as possible.
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I am also encouraged that President Cyril Ramaphosa is establishing a task force to explore the issue. There is much that the government can do to facilitate vaccination management. Vaccination is a public good in the sense that high population-level rates substantially reduce the risks of serious medical consequences of the disease, slow transmission, and reduce the likelihood of new variants.
But companies can do a lot to drive vaccine adoption even if they don’t demand it. Encourage and support your employees: Many hesitate not because of a deep ideological conviction, but because they do not have the information to feel capable of making an informed decision. Help by providing clear information on vaccines, including the growing body of international evidence on how to help countries get back to normal. Explain where they can get vaccinated and give them time off to do it (this is a legal requirement).
While there may be significant workplace safety reasons for employees to get vaccinated, it is also a public good and companies can help increase vaccination rates. I have been encouraged by those companies that have tried to influence the acceptance of vaccines by the general public, for example by offering discounts to those who are vaccinated. This is an obvious way that companies can use their influence to contribute to the general public good. I think this is clearly in line with companies’ commitment to being socially responsible.
I would like companies to publicly report what they are doing to drive vaccine acceptance both internally and among the general public; they should be rewarded with public recognition. Some have taken impressive action. For example, the DG Murray Trust is funding prizes that all vaccinated will be eligible for before the end of the year. Uber offers free rides to vaccination sites. I also applaud the government’s own efforts to push vaccines, including its Vooma coupons, currently available to those over 50 who get vaccinated, and its Vooma Vax Champs program to promote awareness.
The Omicron variant has obviously been devastating. The impact on the tourism industry, which saw more than R1bn of bookings canceled in the three days after it gained global attention, has been particularly shocking. Last week’s unemployment statistics served to underscore how desperate the situation is: we continue to lose jobs despite most lockdown conditions being lifted, with 660,000 fewer jobs in the third quarter than a year ago. anus. Omicron’s coup will exacerbate this.
The initial indicators are that there has been an increase in vaccinations in the last week. That’s a positive response to the news from Omicron, although of course such deviations in demand create logistical challenges in vaccine distribution where uptake has been highest, although we are confident that there are sufficient stocks. However, we may need to focus more on logistics if we keep vaccination rates at current high levels.
Contact us if you have other ideas on how organized businesses can help boost vaccination rates. We all have a common interest in seeing the numbers skyrocket.
Busi Mavuso is CEO of Business Leadership South Africa.