As employers remain on the frontline of the pandemic response, caught between calls to mandate vaccination in the workplace and demands to respect the decisions on vaccination of the individual, the International Organization of Employers (IOE) hosted a timely dialogue, “COVID-19: What Employers Need to Know on Vaccinations and Prevention.”
The October 5 event brought together foremost experts from the health, employer and business fields, including World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, ILO Director General Guy Ryder, IOE President Roberto Suarez Santos and USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson, among others, to discuss this delicate balance, as well as the increasingly complicated situation in developing countries around access to vaccines, in addition to vaccine hesitancy. Panelists focused on a central question: how can employer organizations help companies navigate all these complex and politically charged issues?
Swaminathan outlined the stark realities of COVID-19 and the continued challenges of distribution and access to vaccines worldwide, while DG Ryder acknowledged some of the key dilemmas facing society and employers: in addition to the inequality in distribution and access, the question of mandates and of privacy, for example, is an employer empowered to know the vaccine status of employees? As an employer representative, Robinson discussed the responsibility employers have in vaccine literacy and COVID response and recovery, particularly following the results of the Edelman Trust Barometer, which revealed that employers—not “Big Business” but employers in general—were felt by employees to be one of the most trusted messengers of information on Covid response.
“While there have been fears of a mass exodus of people quitting and not returning to work, preliminary results show that people are following suit—trusting their employer and government—and getting vaccinated and returning to work to protect health and liberty,” said Robinson. “Recent surveys show that the public supports employers who work to protect society by requiring vaccination as a condition of entry to work. This is in sync with global efforts supporting governments to provide equitable vaccination access so that no one gets left behind.”
Robinson also referenced The USCIB Foundation’s initiative “Business Partners to CONVINCE”, or “BP2C”, designed to encourage and support employers worldwide in making the case for vaccination.
“I would like to take the opportunity to express special thanks for the support of IOE, whose role is and will be especially critical given its extensive range of employer organization members particularly as vaccines become more available in developing countries,” added Robinson. “Looking ahead, as the debate on credentials, passports, verification schemes and other ideas advance, we continue to support efforts to strategically engage business and government bodies to effectively communicate to build vaccine confidence and help galvanize support for re-normalizing a COVID-protected world. We are hopeful for a robust recovery in 2022. Yet, if we do not work together to advance vaccine access, literacy, and uptake globally, we could face barriers for building back better. We could hit the wall and fall short of vaccination goals. Yet, I remain convinced we can find a way with business, employers and the private sector helping to forge the way forward with our efforts such as this event and in collaboration with our social partners.”