COVID-19 vaccines across the world are in various stages of development. Over fifty vaccines are in human trials. Several vaccines have received emergency / limited authorization for use in several countries. Several countries have commenced vaccination of priority groups, and many more are expected to commence in coming months. Some countries such as Australia have already roped in specialists such as International SOS to support the vaccination of their citizens. Almost all countries are in the process of procuring, approving and planning their distribution and administration of vaccines. Meanwhile many vaccine candidates continue to be developed and tested.
Globally, vaccines are considered medical therapeutics, and are governed by national regulations for import and use. Each jurisdiction has its own requirements. COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be progressively approved, produced and made available under the control of national health authorities in 2020/2021. Authorities are likely to initially control the access and the distribution of the vaccines while supplies are limited.
Now that effective COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out in various countries, and with testing becoming a regular feature of pandemic era travel, attention is turning to how corporates can support and protect the employees and business travelers against the deadly virus which has claimed more than three million lives worldwide. Global organizations are banking on newer technologies to transform the way people work, communicate and commute.
Board rooms are in need of having a trusted source of health advice and methods to follow in the locations they are operating in, particularly in emerging markets, where they have less knowledge and experience with the local governments and public health authorities. Imagine a large multinational, with a few ten thousands of employees, operating in over 50 countries.
The complexity starts for the board to first come up with the right global policy for their employees and dependents. Once a policy is in place the need to inform the executive and the employees on the progress of vaccine and vaccination. Finally, once the vaccination is achieved, record keeping and maintaining an update on the next steps. Add to this the possibility of the virus mutation and its effect on the government response & advisory.
I have seen the best of the minds struggle to grapple with the above scenario and make effective decisions without a proper medical advisory. Every boardroom is trying to figure out how to plan and execute the journey between the goalposts of vaccine and vaccination?
International SOS is currently working with several organizations in India as well as globally to help the CEO’s plan for a robust Return to Office program. In addition to the right testing protocols we are in various stages of helping organizations develop and plan to execute a right vaccination program. In my crisis room discussions, the C-suite executives are demanding the need for a framework on vaccine policy and vaccine execution (vaccination) which needs to be constantly updated with the changing ground realities and updates regarding the pandemic and vaccine and vaccination progress.
The International SOS Health Advisory offering on this front covers a vast domain wherein we help CEO’s with:
- COVID-19 policy framework: Access the needs of various types of employees (eg: remote worker on a mining site/project site, an international assignee or a business traveller) with varying health risk factors and exposure. Prioritizing the need of vaccines by employee demographics and medical conditions. Understand the need of the office environment and employee dependent ecosystem.
- Develop and maintain a vaccine and vaccination tracker across the world, based on the location spread of the organization. Include the provision of vaccine information in the countries they operate in including vaccine options, workforce coverage, pros and cons of different vaccines, timeframes for vaccination, costs, priority vaccination groups and any costs. Accurate information channel for key stakeholders in HSE, HR and Security at the organization in multiple languages
- Communication of the policy and tracker for the information and education of executives and employees for optimal outcome
- Identify the execution kick off and plan medical support that can be provided to the implementation team in facilitating, within the rules established by the national authorities, for vaccine access, its distribution and/or the vaccination of the employees for the organisation, across countries.
- Provision for a pandemic health expert to guide the board meetings/C-Suite executives to advise on the changing COVID-19 situation and translate the impact on decision making.
Meeting the Organization’s Operational Challenges for COVID-19 Vaccination Program
Our consulting practice recently supported a large media conglomerate in Germany on vaccination planning amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The client was concerned about their role in vaccination rollout: they have international assignees in several locations around the world and were concerned about local plans: Examples of questions which needed to be thought of are (a) expats working in Mozambique would receive a different vaccine to that approved for Ireland; and one that had not been approved by the global vaccine regulatory bodies and (b) British nationals working in Spain did not qualify for the vaccination rollout by the Spanish health authority, would they have to return to the UK in order to receive vaccination?
We were on hand to help with the rollout planning. This included the provision of vaccine information in the countries they operate in including vaccine options, workforce coverage, pros and cons of different vaccines, timeframes for vaccination, costs, priority vaccination groups and any costs. We also provided educational webinars for key stakeholders in HSE, HR and Security at the organisation, in a variety of languages, and assisted with overall policy and protocol reviews as the different vaccination rollouts around the world progress. Our pandemic health experts also regularly monitor the changing situation in each operational location, providing fortnightly updates which enable the assessment of when the company can take a more proactive role in vaccination rollout to their workforce.
In India too, most large organisations are in various stages of plan for COVID-19 vaccination programs, policy framework for their employees under the duty of care obligations and building workforce resilience as the pandemic situation continues to evolve.