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Webinar highlights, Digital vaccine passes in the workplace

In EAIGLE’s webinar, Digital vaccine passes in the workplace, Glenn Gale, Director of Caribbean IBM Watson Health and Susan Wooldridge, Executive Director, Global Health Solutions at TELUS, discussed how enterprises could successfully spearhead the vaccine passports roll out amid the shortage of a unified national policy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinvigorated the public dialogue of control vs. freedom with the vaccine mandates impacting industries differently depending on whether they’re government-regulated or not.

TELUS has had an easier time implementing mandatory vaccination because, as a government-regulated company, it faced little choice to begin with, according to Susan.

Although the Canadian Government hasn’t made vaccines mandatory for the private sector, it announced on Oct. 6th that all the government employees must be vaccinated or be subject to administrative leave without pay as of Nov. 15th.

“Like the banks in Canada, we’re following government guidelines in the way we’re securing our facilities and premises,” she said, adding that the lack of vaccine mandates in the private sector is leading to a greater variability in the way companies choose to protect their employees and visitors.

According to Glenn, organizations must be careful not to expose too many personally identifiable details about an individual’s health status, while following a mandated standard that discloses vaccine type and date of vaccination.

“We don’t have to have all the medical information about the person in the vaccine passport to allow people to move freely,” Glenn said.

Should corporations be allowed to collect health data?

Although corporations are checking their employees’ vaccine status, there is no reason for them to hold on to it because citizens are the custodians of their data – not the corporations, according to Glenn.

“We have laws governing explicit and implied consent for sharing our health information,” Glenn said, and added that provinces made a good decision to create vaccination records.

“This enables employees to download that information and share it with whomever they choose to.”

According to Susan, while there is some inference about how this information is being handled, kernels of health data aren’t being stored by companies on behalf of their employees.

“The difficulty lies in whether any of this data is being inappropriately collected by any of the corporations,” Susan said.

“It comes down to the fear of exposure and ways that compromise us as individuals,” she said, pointing out that insurance companies would stand to gain considerably if they knew who received the vaccine and who didn’t.

“This would change the risk profile of the company and alter the way insurers price benefits or calculate the cost of insuring people.”

Large enterprises should follow federal policy guidelines and use vaccine verification to protect their bottom line

Large employers should implement vaccine verification in accordance with the federal policy – without ignoring the policies of the provinces because they have complete jurisdiction over the way vaccine passports are issued, Glenn said.

“But, there’s always a hierarchy, and we have to comply with the federal standard.”

In Susan’s opinion, while the protection of employees should be every corporation’s primary concern, vaccine verification is also a way of protecting their bottom line.

“Manufacturing companies, for example, need to know where an outbreak occurred on the plant floor or where they have a shortage of employees because someone was sick the day before,” she said, adding that workforce management is crucial, especially during the pandemic, because it drives productivity and ensures business continuity.

What about companies with blue-collar workers who may not have a corporate phone and email?

Collecting and verifying vaccine data is challenging for large enterprises with over 50,000 employees, especially manufacturers whose workforce may not have a corporate phone, email, or access to an employee portal.

The process is labourious and time-intensive, and Glenn believes that the efficiency lies in integrating the proof of vaccination with the person’s identification data.

“It’s going to be a hybrid system for a while – a mix of paper proof and electronic. The process is not perfect and it will continue to evolve,” Glenn added.

“Not everyone is tech savvy to use the QR code, but we have to have a mechanism in place that enables employees to control their data and lets corporations obtain what they need so it’s safe for people to enter the premises,” Glenn also said.

Companies must “demystify” what’s inside the vaccine passport

Corporations have to do a better job educating the public about what’s inside the vaccine passport to quell the worries of people who resist sharing their vaccination status.

What’s important to emphasize is that the vaccine passport doesn’t disclose any more personal information than what the individual has already shared with the HR or legal department upon joining the company, Glenn said.

“There’s a lack of awareness about what’s actually inside the QR code.”

“It’s a bit of a mystery and we need to demystify it so that people can move in and out of facilities with ease.”

To access the webinar recording, use the link below: