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Indian Companies Launching Vaccination Drives - All You Need to Know

May 22, 2021 1:52 PM 4 min read

One of the noticeable things about the ongoing pandemic is how not only does the infection come and go in waves but so do the roles of management agencies that are tasked with combating it. 

The first wave of management was secured by Big Pharma with its ungodly advances in vaccine production within less than a year. The second wave involved governments and state functionaries who took care of funding and procurement of the jabs. The third wave is the one we are experiencing right now where communities and private outfits like corporations are doing their best to amp up the distribution and inoculation efforts at the grassroots. 

Over the last few months, many established Indian companies have announced vaccination drives for their employees and in some cases even their families. For instance, yesterday, Zomato launched a vaccination drive for about 1.5 lakh of its delivery partners in the Delhi-NCR region and offered "incentives" if the partners booked slots by themselves - one of the largest efforts of its kind. 

And Zomato isn't the only one. 

Starting with the organisation of vaccination camps, covering costs, granting paid leaves and even offering incentives in a few instances, India Inc is actively facilitating one of the world's largest vaccination efforts.

Let's see how they are going about it so far.

Corporate Corona Responsibility

Since the Government announced inclusion of COVID-19-related expenditure under the CSR head, the eagerness of corporates to assist with vaccination efforts has no doubt intensified. 

But, there are more pressing considerations. With the Second Wave pushing up fatalities everyday, many valued employees and members of the workforce are losing their lives, which isn't even a remotely good sign for companies. 

In addition, the lockdowns have created massive troughs in the country's economic recovery which won't abate until the vaccination rates rise substantially. And somewhere along the way, corporations have run into the inevitable conclusion that it is better to invest in vaccinating employees than in testing them.

Then there are other bottlenecks like massive supply shortages and cold storage requirements. Plus, a contrarian blend of inadequate public access to jabs on one hand and growing vaccine hesitancy on the other. Not to forget, the unnerving inequities in social and community reach which are made worse by the pricing inequalities and limited government subsidies. It's a war on multiple fronts.

And some corporate reinforcement is crucial to secure victory. India's formal sector may be disproportionately small but it is still bigger than the entire population of many countries. As more doses become available and the eligibility criteria expands, businesses volunteering their own resources will go a long way in amplifying the reach of vaccination drives. 


Expecto Corporate Patronum 

As per a recent survey, over half of the companies in India have said that they plan to facilitate vaccination for their employees as well as their dependants. Not only that, but about 97% of them offered to cover the cost of vaccination for employees and in some cases even for the dependents like spouses (78%), children (74%) and parents (59%). 

Even banks and financial institutions are initiating vaccination programs, deservedly for their employees who have served as frontline workers in the past year. 

What makes the corporations effectively poised to take the vaccination charge forward is their close engagement with the citizens. As per a McKinsey report, 45% of employees say that initiatives focused on promoting convenience and costlessness will significantly increase their chances of getting vaccinated. 

Setting up on-site or in-house vaccination sites is sure to boost convenience. Corporates have ample open spaces which can act as vaccination camps, a point well-made by Mr. Anand Mahindra recently, who called for industry cooperation in promoting vaccination efforts. In addition, paid time off for vaccination and recovery can also solidify employees' belief that they will be adequately compensated for any incremental financial consequences in the post-vaccination period. 

The costs, similarly, can be subsidised or fully reimbursed from either the annual budget or CSR spends. Regional branches of multinationals like Uber can take a page out of their headquarters' playbook and begin free rides to and from the vaccination centres. In fact, why not follow even further like Amazon and offer bonuses for employees who show proof of vaccination? 

There is a third differential (apart from convenience and costlessness) where corporate participation becomes necessary and that is conviction. With a rising number of people growing reluctant to receive vaccinations, a nudge of encouragement from their employers would offer clarity. 

Companies may not make vaccinations compulsory but they can surely incentivise them through benefits or even through public endorsements. More industry peers should join Mr. Mahindra, Ms. Shaw and Mr. Premji in voicing their support for an accelerated vaccination programme so that the country can soon return to the old normal. 

Ensure Corporate Social Distancing

Recently, reports from Brazil have shown that greater corporate intervention in vaccination programmes has achieved the opposite of acceleration, rather it has been crowding supplies and chipping away at vaccine equity even further. 

"Queue jumping" has grown disturbingly common as corporations begin hoarding supplies. This is especially concerning in light of expanding COVID-presence in rural and semi-urban areas where vaccines are most necessary to curb the spread. Distorted allocation to corporations, therefore, might upset the need-based and targeted supply chains of vaccines which are extremely important to overcome the infections. 

In any case, it is in the best interest of companies to wish to integrate vaccination planning with broader efforts such as managing the return of their workforce to workplaces. They should also support continued vaccination protocols (like booster shots for emerging variants) to ensure the protection and security of their employees against the subsisting effects of the pandemic.  


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