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Six ways to reduce vaccine hesitancy and encourage staff immunization

Despite the million plus cases and almost 25,000 deaths in Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some Canadians are still hesitant about rolling up their sleeves for the COVID-19 immunization.

As the pandemic continues to ravage communities across the country, and the threat of vaccine hesitancy has become more urgent, employers can play a central role in the drive to persuade people to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

In this article we look at six different methods employers can use to encourage staff to role up their sleeves and get vaccinated.

Greatest threat to global health

Recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a top threat to public health, vaccine hesitancy is defined by the WHO as reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines.

Vaccine hesitancy has the potential to reverse progress in eliminating some of the world’s deadliest infections – including COVID-19.

According to recent reports, 8% of Canadian adults say they will never take a vaccine for Covid-19. A majority of Canadians (64%) say they have already had a shot or will take one as soon as it is available to them, while 28% say they would “prefer to wait a bit to see how the vaccine works out as others take it”, or “would prefer not to take one, but could be persuaded to”.

Because the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, vaccine hesitancy among senior and long term care workers is of particular concern. Without compliance for COVID-19 immunization among the senior and healthcare populations, enormous risks are posed to residents, workers and the public at large.

Tips for encouraging immunization

Certain strategies and interventions may help increase COVID-19 immunization rates along staff. Here are six:

1. Education

To ease doubts and help employees, consider providing staff with educational resources on vaccines. Information sessions explaining the safety of the vaccine can be useful in helping staff understand more clearly the vaccination process and what happens in the hours, days and months following the vaccine. Being informed can help ease fears.

2. Cultural Sensitivity

Employers must consider that among their staff may be employees whose cultural or religious beliefs dissuade them from getting vaccinated. Consider working with diversity, equity, and inclusion experts to conduct a survey of the workplace in order to understand existing beliefs amongst staff. Use the information provided by a survey to develop more targeted education plans.

3. Incentivize positive behaviours

Many workers, particularly women with children, may face challenges in finding the time necessary to getting vaccinated. Consider creating policies that would allow for paid time off for vaccination , provide childcare options or facilitate vaccination during times that are convenient for staff.

4. Look to the future

In communicating about the benefits of the vaccine, be sure to emphasize benefits for the future. For example, vaccines may be required for future domestic or international travel, to attend concerts and sporting events and perhaps even for certain employment options.

5. Highlight the value of the vaccine

Find opportunities in the workplace to highlight the value of the vaccine. Some staff members may worry about side effects or other associated risks. Take the time to tell employees that people across the county and across the world have received the vaccine with minimal negative effects. The bottom line is this: vaccines have been shown to reduce hospitalizations by more than 99 per cent.

6. Seek employee buy-in

Encourage employees to sign up for the vaccine as soon as they are eligible. Influential staff members and leaders within the organization should also promote employee buy-in by expressing their commitment to getting vaccinated.

The time is now for employers to become part of the solution in ending the pandemic. By persuading employees within their organizations to get vaccinated, and helping employees overcome vaccine hesitancy, employers are taking the right steps to end biases that continue to put the rest of the world in danger.

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