Employers play a vital role in increasing the uptake of vaccines in the workplace. Here at Helium Health, we are proud to be advocates for the urgency around vaccination and to have achieved a fully "vaxxed" workforce.
On the 2nd of March, 2021 Nigeria received 4 million doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine. However, 7 months and 8 million doses later, only 1.3% of Nigerians have been vaccinated of its population which in literal terms means just over 2 million out of 200 million. Now, who do we fault as, in the last months, we have seen numerous campaigns and transparency of The Nigerian Government around COVID-19 and vaccination. However, there is still considerable apathy and hesitancy around the acceptance and use of the available, approved vaccines in the country. In a study conducted by Premium Times in Abuja, about 70% of the respondents said they would not take the vaccines. In a low trust society like Nigeria, it is apparent that a lot of work still needs to be done to change the mindset of many citizens about vaccines.
Description: A Cross-sectional survey of 401 participants from three Local Government Areas in Delta North, Central, and South Senatorial Districts was carried out in December 2020. Source: Perception of COVID-19 and Vaccine acceptance in Delta state.
Vaccination against COVID-19 is the most effective strategy for curbing the spread of the virus. A vaccinated individual is not only protected but can now protect others in their community and eventually the whole of society. But, this can only happen if there is a high level of uptake. As a company that cares very much about global health, we thought to implement a strategy drawing up from three conditions we have seen to increase the uptake of public health interventions.
Launching an Internal Response to COVID-19 Advocacy Program
Step 1: Roll out communication materials around the virus and vaccination.
One of the major problems around the low uptake of vaccines was the lack of conviction. We have a direct channel to communicate with our staff and so we leveraged this to share authoritative, credible, and accessible information on the safety, efficacy, and side effects of available vaccines in collaboration with the experts within our network.
Step 2: Creating structural support around the vaccination process
Another major reason why people haven’t taken the vaccines yet is due to the difficulty of going to a primary healthcare centre, waiting long hours in the queue with little hope of getting a jab at the end of the day. This can be very discouraging especially if work takes up most of one’s time. Helium Health is a high-performance company and we understand how much commitment our staff give to their work. We knew that to drive the adoption of vaccines, we had to make the vaccination as convenient as possible. We provided our employees with relevant information on where to get their vaccines, and the necessary items they needed to take along like identification cards.
Step 3: Mandating a sick day leave
In Nigeria, the government is fully responsible for securing the vaccines and so there is no need to worry about cost at all. However, we understand that some people may experience serious side effects for some hours due to the vaccine. What we then did, which has always been in our policy is to mandate a sick day leave which will not be taken from the regular 20 days annual leave.
While we do not envision the need to return to a full time working environment, we believe that this action is one worth taking not for now but for the long term as a fully vaxxed workforce will not only protect themselves but also their community as a whole.