Covid-19 is a respiratory disease that was discovered in December 2019, rapidly caused by a novel coronavirus that is structurally related to the virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The virus first emerged in 2002 as SARS and re-emerged in 2012 as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) .Coronavirus is a human viral pathogen that causes acute respiratory complications in humans.
Vaccines are the most promising solutions to mitigate viral strains. A vaccine is crucial, in particular because data indicates asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 is the primary means of transmission. Rapid development of an effective vaccine against the corona virus was therefore essential.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused unprecedented impacts on health, social and economic aspects across the globe. The International Labor Organization estimated that working hours would decline by 6.7% in the 2nd quarter of 2020, which is an equivalent to 195 million full-time jobs. Businesses downsized due to catastrophic losses that jeopardized their solvency. Countries have had different approaches to stop the spread of the virus such as initiating lockdowns, restricting movement, and closure of institutions of learning, hotels and international travel restrictions.
Recommendations from health experts on the need for social distancing, quarantining and avoiding physical contact necessitated a change in the way organizations operate. Workplaces have been forced to downsize while others have adopted new working arrangements such as ‘working-from-home’ techniques and introduction of alternate working shifts for employees.
In the remote work model, employees carry out their duties remotely with the help of technological advancements such online conference and meetings’ platforms. Some employees telecommute on a full-time basis while others on certain days per week. The changing trend into telecommuting is possibly for the long-term. This is aimed at minimizing crowding at workplaces and the risk of spread of the virus. This brings about a change in social cultures. People have learnt to minimize close contacts, handshakes and crowding.
Remote Working Techniques
In the midst of the pandemic, companies have been forced to adopt new modes of achieving their targets without their employees necessarily working from the office. At the forefront of this is Facebook, the world’s leading social media company. When the reports began to spread on the potential of a pandemic, Mark Zuckerberg promptly opted for a switch to remote work.
The video conferencing company, Zoom, noted a surge is daily meeting participants from 10 million daily to 300 million daily. Facebook on its side introduced a competitor named Rooms. With this, many of Facebook’s 48,000 staff around the world were able to easily switch to remote work. Zuckerberg projected that in less than 10 years to come, half of the employees in the company will be working remotely, permanently. This marks a monumental shift in the culture of the world’s most consequential companies.
Other tech companies including Twitter announced that its employees would be able to work from home. This marked a major change in the industry. The CEO Jack Dorsey mentioned that the employees would be able to work from wherever they like. Soon afterwards, other tech companies in the Silicon Valley including Square, Slack and Upwork followed suit. They announced their own plans to shift to a remote model.
As the cases of Covid-19 continue being reported, other companies are likely to shift to the same model. Hybrid work model helps companies save money as well as reduce employee churn. Data shows that offering flexible work options helps companies attract and retain top talents. According to the 2019 State of Remote Work report from Owl Labs, 25% of companies that offer remote work have lower turnover rate than companies that don’t.
According to McKinsey research, 80% of people questioned reported that they enjoy working from home and 41% say that they are more productive than they had been before. Employees have been liberated from long commutes hence promoting flexibility. Most of them have decided that they prefer to work from home rather than in the office. Companies that still have employees reporting to work require them to wear masks at all times, redesigned spaces to ensure physical distancing and restriction of movement in congested areas.
The Covid-19 Vaccine
The genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, coronavirus that causes Covid-19, was published in January 2020, triggering intense global research and development activity to develop a vaccine. The essential part of developing any vaccine is to ensure that known and theoretical risks are identified, quantified and weighed against potential benefits. In the Covid-19 context, the most important consideration is whether immune responses elicited by the vaccine could enhance SARS-CoV-2 acquisition or make the disease worse when vaccination occurs.
Many research institutions across the globe are carrying out advanced scientific studies on the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a bid to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. Convalescent plasma studies suggest potential benefit rather than risk of more severe disease. This has therefore led to the development of vaccines by various companies. Pfizer and BioNTech are the first pharmaceutical companies to come up with a Covid-19 trial vaccine. They have achieved first authorization in the world for a vaccine to combat Covid-19. Interim analysis of the phase III trials conducted show that the vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing the virus in participants without prior infection.
Pfizer and BioNTech continue to work in collaboration with governments and ministries of health around the world that will distribute the vaccine, subject to country authorization or approval. This is to ensure that the vaccine reaches those who are in need as fast as possible. According to Pfizer, the external data monitoring committee has not observed any serious safety concerns with the Covid-19 vaccine. Data from phase III study shows that the vaccine has been well tolerated.
Pfizer has confirmed that the vaccine will be available to high risk populations in the US by December 2020. On the other hand, the UK government has committed to uptake 40 million doses (enough for 20 million people). Germany on the other hand is setting up hundreds of vaccination centers to administer the new vaccine to its population. The Paul Ehrlich Institute, which is responsible for the release of the vaccine batches in Germany considers itself prepared for the roll-out.
Globally, 50million doses are expected in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021. Moderna and US National Institutes of Health have also developed a vaccine that is 94.5% effective according to trials conducted (Mahase, E. 2020).
Types of Covid-19 Vaccines
In the United States, there are currently 3 main types of vaccines undergoing phase III trials. These vaccines have been deemed safe by public health experts with no dire side effects observed among early participants. In a bid to create awareness and allay fears of safety of the vaccine, three former US presidents have offered to publicly undergo inoculation. Below is a description of how each type of the vaccine prompts our bodies to recognize and protect us from the virus that causes COVID-19.
- mRNA Vaccines. These contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 by giving our cells instructions on how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build white blood cells that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 in the case of a future infection.
- Protein subunit vaccines. It includes harmless pieces (proteins)of the virus that cause COVID-19 instead of the entire germ. Once vaccinated, our immune system recognizes that the proteins don’t belong in the body and begins making T-lymphocytes and antibodies that will recognize and fight the virus if infection occurs.
- Vector vaccines. This contains a viral vector which is a weakened version of a live virus (a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19) that has genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 inserted in it. Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build white blood cells that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future.
Covid-19 Vaccine and Changes to The Workplaces
For months, Covid-19 has created challenges to the workplace. Companies are setting up systems for employees as they return to work to facilitate adjustment to the new normal. The discovery of a Covid-19 vaccine is a big relief to many companies and human resource teams. This is because business hope to resume normalcy. Many organizations will be keen to encourage its employees to get a vaccine if it is offered to them. Employers therefore have a duty to protect the health and wellbeing of their staff and ensure they are informed of the pros and cons of vaccinations.
The availability of a vaccine could result in relaxation of stringent rules and measures initially put in place to minimize the spread of coronavirus. Social distancing and other measures could be minimized or abolished. With regard to remote working, many employers have discovered the benefits accrue and might not want to change the working models even after the discovery of the vaccine. This will result in a cultural shift that is likely to continue into the future.
There are instances that private employers are likely to have the legal right to require employees to obtain a Covid vaccine as a condition of employment. Employers who mandate a vaccine need to consider the potential liability that arises from doing so.
Some employees may object the vaccine on religious grounds and therefore the employers must balance employees’ rights to be free from religious discrimination. Some employees affected by Covid-19 in one way or another might have developed phobia associated with returning to workplaces and this might result in resistance. Rating of organization on the basis of how they handled the acquisition and use of the vaccine on their employees.
Research from Insurer Canada Life has shown that more than one third of employees who have been working from home during the lockdown want a vaccine or an antibody in place before returning to the physical work place.
Hand sanitation is one of the interventions recommended for prevention of Covid-19 transfer and infection. Hand hygiene is of utmost importance as our hands are susceptible to contamination from direct contact with airborne microorganism droplets from coughs and sneezes. Center for Disease Control has promoted and encouraged hand hygiene through hand washing and hand sanitization. World Health Organization (WHO) recommends alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) in line with the proven advantages of their rapid action and broad spectrum of microbicidal activity offering protection against bacteria and viruses.
Hand sanitizers are available in many forms such as foams, hand rubs and wipes. For a hand sanitizer to be effective, it has to contain 62-95% alcohol. They are also effective sanitization on the go. Manual and automatic sanitizer dispensers range from bottles to stand-alone bulky wall mounted units.
SANI is such a wonderful example of what an automatic hand sanitizer dispenser machine can do for the workplace. With technology baked right into the product, sanitization becomes hassle free. SANI has built in features like an AI dashboard that gives data insights on consumption, automatic orders for dispenser replacements and more.
It is also environmentally friendly with its dual functionality, meaning that the sanitizer bottles can be reused, saving up to 4,000 plastic bottles that end up in landfills every year. Don’t miss out on a risk-free trial live now for workplaces.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a shift of cultures across the globe. Companies have adopted new work models including remote work to ensure restrictions relating to stopping the spread of the virus are adhered to. In the recent discovery of a vaccine, employers have a responsibility to ensure full disclosure of information on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine to their employers. Countries across the globe are rushing to acquire vaccines to prevent further spread of the Covid-19 amongst populations.