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Business can play a crucial role in SA’s vaccination drive

The obvious discussion is the extent to which companies should be mandating vaccination for employees.
Busi Mavuso, CEO of Business Leadership SA. Image: Moneyweb

We have now delivered over 20 million vaccine doses, with 10.5 million people fully vaccinated.

Opening vaccinations to over-12s later this month will add momentum for a while. But it is clear that take-up rates are slowing. We have 27% of our adult population fully vaccinated, including 53% of those over 60, but need to reach 60%-70% to minimise the impact of the virus.

Read: SA regulator approves Pfizer Covid-19 shot for children 12 and up

What can we do as business?

There is much that we are doing, but I would like to encourage employers to consider how they can support their employees to become vaccinated. That can help drive vaccination rates and get us closer to the levels needed to save many lives.

I have written before that our challenge has shifted from one of securing enough vaccine supply to one of reaching enough recipients while overcoming vaccine hesitancy.

Our delivery rate has improved – we have delivered over a million doses in three of the last four weeks – but we are at half the 350 000/day rate now needed to reach the 70% target by the end of the year.

Discovery has estimated that if we reach 60%, we would avoid 25 000 deaths from a fourth wave that could strike in December.

At our current rate we are on course for 50% by Christmas. This may even be a stretch.

There is growing concern that the campaign will begin to run out of willing recipients, compounded by going into the festive season when people will be away from home and harder to reach.

For example, evidence is emerging that people who received the first Pfizer jab are not returning for the second, with Gauteng province recently reporting that a million people had not turned up for their second vaccination.

Organised business has been working hard throughout the vaccination campaign as a partner to the Department of Health through the Business for South Africa campaign.

We began by assisting government to secure supplies of vaccines and have since been working along with our members to ensure the vaccination campaign can reach all South Africans by providing hundreds of vaccination sites. That work continues and the focus has shifted to boosting the demand side and supporting increased access to vaccination sites.

For employers, the obvious discussion is the extent to which companies should be mandating vaccination for employees.

The law says that companies have a responsibility to ensure that employees operate in a safe environment. They must primarily consider the health risks that exist in the workplace – a company that has no face-to-face contact between employees or customers could not justifiably require vaccines as an essential safety measure.

Read: Discovery to require all employees to be vaccinated from January

But when companies do mandate vaccines, there is a material public benefit externality that arises – they are helping to ensure that the overall South African vaccination rate ratchets up closer to levels needed to reduce deaths and ensure more economic activity.

The facts are clear. The vaccinated are 50%-80% less likely to catch the disease and around 93% less likely to die from it. While there is some risk of adverse effects from vaccination, this is miniscule compared with the risk of dying from Covid – one or two vaccine recipients per million suffer a severe adverse effect, but 1,810 people per million have died from Covid in South Africa.

Internationally, both governments and companies have mandated vaccination with a failure to comply being a dismissible offence. The legal view is that a similar route could be followed here, given that a refusal to obey a health and safety rule that endangers others amounts to serious misconduct. However, companies can try to accommodate employees who still refuse vaccination, for example by requiring the alternative of regular mandatory testing or isolation.

The involvement of organised business in the vaccine campaign is primarily about doing what we can to save lives. But it is also about protecting livelihoods, ensuring that normal economic activity can resume and people can work to feed themselves and their families.

Now we must focus on driving vaccination rates. Business as employers can play a crucial role.

There is much else that can be done as an alternative, or in addition to, mandates. The workplace can be a place to inform and consult with employees to understand any vaccine hesitancy there may be and provide support to overcome it.

Providing leave for vaccinations is a legal requirement, but also another way to encourage employees to get vaccinated.

Indeed, there is some evidence that one of the major problems is that many workers, particularly in the informal sector, just don’t have time to get vaccinated. That problem needs to be addressed by making vaccines even more accessible.

Government should also explore the use of mandates in the public sector. Healthcare workers at least should be required to be vaccinated and I can see a strong argument for the same to apply to teachers and others who work closely with the public.

B4SA provides much support on its website for employers who are considering their options. I would encourage all businesses to access that resource and come up with a plan for how you can support your employees to get vaccinated.

Busi Mavuso is CEO of Business Leadership SA.

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All handmaiden of Klaus Schwab ?

What about our inequality issues Busi? You do nothing but cash cheques from the same rich people that drives the inequality agenda in this country. No one takes this office serious and neither you do!

The good news for all South Africans is that the 7 day average new cases per million has fallen even further to a mere 10.58 on 17th October. This remarkable achievement is just 1.7% of the current new cases rate in the UK. The nations with the highest new cases are also the ones with the highest success rate with the injections. These factual numbers are published for comparison purposes at the coronavirus section of the ourworldindata website. What does it take to achieve success in the fight against this virus? Surely the truth should at least be acknowledged for the great achievement that it represents?

Even though many brave and inspired supporters of vaccination are carrying the flag high, the inoculation battle is a lost case in South Africa. Don’t get me wrong, I have been vaccinated, and I obviously believe it is the sensible thing to do, but we will never get ahead of the curve so to speak.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the protection of the vaccine wears off rapidly, and that we will have to get booster shots every 6 months. Those who don’t go for the booster shot will be in the same position as those who were never vaccinated in the first place. It is like a funeral policy. If you stop paying for one month, you are in the same position as someone who never had any insurance.

It takes them longer than 6 months to vaccinate the nation in the first round. That means they will never catch up when the first people have to go for their booster shots. It is like trying to outrun a tsunami wave.

Covid has won the war on covid. The myopic and naive clowns in the Covid Central Command Council simply haven’t received the message jet.

oh i agree with you that the vaccination programme is like a funeral policy. just maybe not for the same reason you do lol

The fact that you don’t mention the equivalent naturally-acquired immunity in >40% of the population means you aren’t a serious journalist or seriously interested in the facts of the situation. I can safely disregard this piece as nothing more than a Big Pharma sales pitch.

End of comments.

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