Kenya has been receiving batches of COVID-19 vaccines in the last few months. Nonetheless, the number of people who have been vaccinated either for the first or second time is quite low and far from the needed percentage of achieving herd immunity. While a number of factors could have led to this situation, hesitancy has played the greatest role.
In this respect, the ministry of health has been calling leaders in different sectors to heighten their efforts of urging Kenyans to get vaccinated. In stances where the numbers have been quite discouraging, there have been statements of Kenyans being denied access in critical meeting points such as places of worship and government offices.
In this article we will look at the role of Kenyan employers in vaccination efforts in Kenya. One might wonder: what do employers have to do with vaccination especially if they are not in the health sector? Or shouldn’t everyone be responsible for his/her own health and do the necessary?
The answers are simple. First, health is the focal point of all activities and it is the initiative of all to do their level best to ensure that health is achieved. When health of one is compromised, the same spread to many more.
Second, employers are influential and their input can play a big role in the universal agenda of economic recovery. Third, we spend most of our time working, so workplaces are ideal starting points for talking more about vaccination. Last but not least, if some people have already been vaccinated and are put in the same environment with those who haven’t, it might create tension or drive them to segregate depending on their status.
- Focus on the critical points of the vaccine
Many people are not convinced that the vaccines are safe for use, and this could be the main reason why the number of vaccinated citizens is low. Some are surprised by the period of development, components of the vaccine, rollout process, efficacy, safety, and side effects. Their fears are being worsened by misinformation from some media houses, individuals, or religion.
As an employer, you are at an advantage of cutting the spread of such wrong information due to influence and accessible to credible information and authority personnel. While making them change their beliefs will not be easy, it is doable. First, seek to understand the main areas of concern; what is the main reason for the hesitation? This can be done using survey forms or office meetings. Expect more questions if your employees are not in the health-related professions.
Then consult credible sources of information and refer your team to such or invite health professionals who can answer the questions. You can also invite senior managers to share their experiences on vaccination. Another important concept would be to provide simplified information about the booking process, requirements, stations, and other relevant details.
- Give some time for vaccination and recovery
When asked why they have not been vaccinated, some Kenyans have cited the lack of time to visit or wait in line in health facilities where vaccines are being offered. Some people work 6 days a week and would rather rest and prepare for the new week on the seventh day than wait in lines. On one hand, this is quite understandable.
As an employer, you can designate a day or two for vaccination. Building relationships with health facilities near you can drive vaccination activities even further. Such can allow you to conduct mass bookings, book the most convenient time for your team, of have on-site vaccination stations.
Another thing that has stood out is the effects of the vaccines on different people.
Some have mentioned headaches, fatigue, and dizziness lasting for 2 or 3 days. These are good indicators that if your employees are vaccinated on a weekday, it is important for you to plan how the work will be handled as they recover
- Cover direct costs (if you can)
Vaccination is free, but there will be related costs such as transportation to and from the health facility. Not everybody will be willing to part with some money to access the vaccines due to different financial capabilities, so if you are in a position to meet the financial needs, go ahead and do so.
Costs can be lowered by transporting employees in groups, visiting the nearby centres, or seeking on-site vaccination.
Without a doubt, everyone should be responsible for his/her own health and take the necessary actions voluntarily. In some instances however, intervention is necessary to drive change. Since COVID-19 vaccination is not yet mandatory in Kenya, it is important for us to drive change in some of the ways mentioned above.