Beefmaster Group, Kimberley’s largest private employer, says that its staff has responded well to the vaccination drive against COVID-19, with 80% of its staff now fully vaccinated against the virus.
“Although we do not yet have 100% coverage, we are pleased overall with the vaccination rate of our different sites. Our feedlot in Christiana has an 85% vaccination rate followed by Kimberley with 65%,” says Cindy Nkgoeng, HR manager at Beefmaster Group.
According to statistics, more than 18 million South Africans are fully vaccinated, and at least 21,5 million South Africans had at least one vaccine dose. Many companies have resorted to mandatory vaccine mandates in an effort to protect the health and safety of employees and to curb the issue of vaccine hesitancy.
“We believe it is far more constructive to focus efforts around ongoing training and tackling the spread of misinformation,” she says, adding although the company does not have a mandatory vaccination policy, it does encourage employees to get the jab, as well as booster shots.
She adds that uptake was initially slow given that widespread of misinformation around vaccinations, however, the company’s intervention changed this for the better.
“When the vaccine first became available, the uptake was affected by the spreading of false information and myths. We embarked on a custom-made training programme and vaccination drive to raise awareness and to talk about the benefits. This was translated into different African languages to enable our employees to have a better understanding.”
Research suggests that communities respond better to messages about issues when it is in their own language. Nkgoeng echoes this sentiment, saying that the training resulted in the significant increase of vaccination among its workforce.
“We still continue to make COVID-19 vaccination information widely available at our premises, whether on posters or on notice boards,” says Nkgoeng.
She adds that the company is also encouraging staff to take the flu vaccine, which is provided to staff at its onsite clinic and forms part of the Beefmaster Employee Wellness Programme. “We are also still giving Vitamin-C and immune booster supplements to all employees who want to receive them, free of charge.”
Studies have found that flu vaccines may also help to prevent COVID-19 in its more severe forms. A study of more than 30,000 health-care workers in Qatar found that those who got a flu jab were nearly 90% less likely to develop severe COVID-19, compared with those who hadn’t been recently vaccinated against flu. The study, which was conducted in late 2020, before the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, is in line with previous work suggesting that ramping up the immune system using influenza vaccines and other jabs could help the body to fend off the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
“We want to see our employees and their families healthy. We hope that by looking after our employees in this manner, we can play a leading role in mitigating the risks of COVID-19 and other illnesses in the wider Kimberley community. If we have a healthy community, we can keep more people employed, and thereby make a lasting contribution to the economic growth of our area,” concludes Nkgoeng.
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