Further investment is required to support occupational health and the key role it can play in the delivery of the Covid-19 vaccine, the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) has said.
In a statement published before Christmas, shortly after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved for use in the UK but ahead of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine’s approval, SOM Council said OH professionals were “well placed” to advise employers and employees on the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination and would support government efforts to promote high levels of uptake.
The role of OH in the delivery of a vaccination programme has also been highlighted by former prime minister Tony Blair, who said the profession could be a vital resource in administering the vaccine.
Blair urged the government to ensure as many people as possible receive a first dose of the vaccine to increase immunity, rather than holding back a second dose for each person who receives it, a change that has now happened.
He said: “Given the advantages of the AstraZeneca vaccine in terms of simplicity to administer – like the flu jab – we should surely be using every available potential resource including all pharmacies, occupational health capacity and those suitable to be trained fast to administer vaccines and increase the rate of vaccination.
“And we should think about greater flexibility in the plan, with vaccination of groups most likely to transmit the virus and hotspot areas as well as age and vulnerability.”
With the vaccination programme likely to take many months, SOM advised OH practitioners to continue to emphasise to both employers and employees the importance of hygiene controls and “hands, face, space” guidance throughout 2021.
Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by XpertHR in early December found 35% of the public said they were unlikely to get a Covid-19 vaccination when it was offered to them.
Some 48% were worried it would not be safe, 47% were worried it would not be effective and 55% were worried about side effects.
Jeya Thiruchelvam, managing editor at XpertHR, said: “Many people have concerns about the vaccine, so employers must recognise this and tread carefully when the roll-out moves to people of working age. Encouraging employees to take the vaccine is fine – but forcing them is not.”