For over a year now, Covid-19 has become part of the normal language and narrative around the world.
In that time it has caused seismic changes to countries, populations, economies and families.
But what does it practically mean for workplaces, especially now with the trans-Tasman bubble open and vaccinations for everyone coming closer? And how do businesses talk to their people about this?
Vaccination has always been, and remains, a personal choice. It is considered a medical procedure and, as such, can be refused. But they have been around since 1796 when Edward Jenner created the smallpox vaccine.
Vaccines work by preparing the body’s defence systems, priming it to store antibodies to target the virus. But unlike some other vaccines, the Covid-19 vaccine New Zealand is using contains no live virus.
Without the ability to overwhelm the virus with existing antibodies, the body needs to identify the virus, develop its defence and then roll it out.
That all takes time, and all the while the virus is reproducing at a rapid rate, spreading to organs where the infection can take over.
The Covid-19 vaccination programme — like all New Zealand’s vaccination programmes — is designed to achieve herd immunity, where enough people in the community are vaccinated so the virus has no place to go as it needs a host.
For employers, it is a matter of balancing the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, the Human Rights Act 1993, the Privacy Act 2020, and the Bill of Rights Act 1990.
But first and foremost, they should start by providing employees with the information to make an informed choice about vaccination.
As always, vaccinations should go hand-in-hand with good personal hygiene, including hand washing and sanitising, covering coughs and sneezes, and not coming to work if you’re sick.
Over the past year those measures dramatically cut the rate of winter influenza and common colds.