The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has now approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, following months of rigorous clinical trials, with the vaccine now meeting the organisation’s strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
While this is certainly excellent news for the health of the nation, it does pose some interesting questions for businesses of all shapes and sizes, and across all industries and sectors.
No doubt many companies will be eager to encourage their staff members to be vaccinated if it’s offered to them, although the government has clarified that there will be no legal requirement to take it once it’s widely available - so the ethics around requesting people to be vaccinated before returning to the office may well be questionable.
Speaking to Personnel Today, Dr Ian Peters - director of the Institute of Business Ethics - explained that ethical behaviour can be difficult and it is important to weigh up the need to keep staff, customers and the general public safe, while also respecting an individual’s liberties.
And Sarah Evans of Constantine Law observed that, where employment law is concerned, it is unlikely that expecting people to participate in a national vaccination programme would be considered unethical, but it could be “pushing it somewhat” to require them to be vaccinated before going back to the office.
Further comments on the matter were made by founder and director of ethical business advisers GoodCorporate Leo Martin, who said: “The vaccine will only successfully stop the spread of the virus with the widest possible take-up, so there is an ethical duty on employers to ensure that accurate information about the vaccine and its benefits are clearly communicated to encourage maximum participation.
“It may also be advisable to counter any disinformation about the vaccine as this can promote misplaced fear and impede the vaccine’s success.”
The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations is set to publish its final advice for priority groups to be vaccinated, such as health and care staff, care home residents, elderly people and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. The vaccine will be available across the UK from the week beginning December 7th.
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