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Corporate Nigeria goes tough on unvaccinated staff

Nigerian corporates are going tough on employees who are unwilling to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, rolling out stiff sanctions in a country where full vaccination rate is less than 1 percent.

Guaranty Trust Bank Holding plc (GTCO), Nigeria’s largest bank, on Monday, gave staff members till September ending to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus or face a pay cut and restriction from accessing the bank’s workplace, BusinessDay confirmed.

The bank in an internal memo, dated September 13, warned that “starting October 2021, any staff that fails to comply will no longer be allowed into the bank’s premises and may be placed on half salary.”

The letter was directed at all staff from the operational risk management team.

The bank’s move marks a significant point in the growing trend of private companies mandating vaccination to keep the workplace environment safe.

Some oil and gas companies have also mandated staff members to get vaccinated or face lay-offs. In some other cases, staff members yet to get vaccinated are mandated to conduct COVID tests once a week.

Addax Petroleum, oil and gas exploration firm, MTN Nigeria and a handful of others sourced vaccines for staff members and their families, but it remains unclear if they have mandated vaccination.

Enforcement of compulsory vaccination has been a subject of concern, raising questions on the degree of an employer’s power over the personal health choices of employees.

It has also stirred a moral debate on who is fair between those who have been vaccinated against the virus at work and those opting to stay unprotected, exposing vaccinated people to possible infections.

Many against vaccination mainly have their hesitancy built around distrust towards the vaccine effect on their health, thanks to misinformation led by false theories of harmful impact on the body.

Some continue to hinge their refusal of vaccination on the vaccines’ inability to stop the spread of infection even though scientific studies prove vaccines reduce the severity of symptoms and the rate of hospitalisation.

Also, Nigerians keep questioning the rationale behind making vaccination mandatory when the country barely has enough vaccines available to fully vaccinate 3 percent of its population estimated at 206 million.

Read Also: GTCO threatens to halve pay, block workplace access for unvaccinated staff

Analysts who spoke with BusinessDay say they saw it coming and expect the trend to grow further as companies try to navigate through the third wave of the pandemic and prevent a situation requiring complete shutdown of operations.

“If you look at the history of vaccination in the world, to take polio, for example, it was like COVID-19 and was killing people until a vaccine was found and was made necessary for everyone. In the first one week of a baby’s life, they get PCG. There are some countries where you need evidence of vaccination against yellow fever to enter,” Olumide Balogun, chief executive, Box and Cedar, a human resource consulting, tells BusinessDay.

“You can have the right to resist anything. But if you want to work somewhere and they say you should be vaccinated then you can’t work there,” according to Balogun.

Ayodeji Ebo, head, retail investment at Chapel Hill Denham, told BusinessDay earlier that the adoption of mandatory vaccination would increase among companies, given the increased awareness around prevention.

“I think that based on the peculiarity of our situation, we don’t expect to see a significant spread of the virus. And we don’t expect to see implications in terms of businesses shutting down which would impact the economy,” he said.

The tussle between anti-vaccination and pro-vaccination drivers has also posed an influence on the position many Nigerians hold.

Just as in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Poland, and others, considerations on mandatory vaccination by the Federal Government and states such as Edo have met huge resistance.

Joe Biden, US president, ordered last week that all federal workers and contractors would need to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the coming weeks, as well as health care workers.

The administration will also require all businesses with 100 or more employees to test unvaccinated workers at least once a week.

Some of the backlashes have been push for defunding of the vaccination programme and states such as Florida ordering that cities and municipalities that require vaccines for public employees will face $5,000 fines per infraction.

In Nigeria, it is not yet clear where the train is headed.

More than 10 million vaccines have been supplied to Nigeria but less than half of those jabs have been administered.

More persuasion and incentives could prove more effective to attract vaccine uptake than force, some analysts say.

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