Consumer companies seek vaccination for frontline staff

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The cumulative number of vaccines administered in the country crossed 1.37 crore, government said  (REUTERS)The cumulative number of vaccines administered in the country crossed 1.37 crore, government said (REUTERS) 3 min read . Updated: 28 Feb 2021, 08:50 PM IST Suneera Tandon Retailers such as Metro Cash and Carry, Ikea, Spencer’s among others have made representations seeking vaccination for their frontline staffApart from seeking vaccination for staff—private sector companies have also been vocal about helping speed up the vaccination drive in the country

New Delhi: With India set to begin second phase of vaccination for citizens, several retailers and consumer goods companies said they have made representations seeking vaccination of their frontline staff and even mom-and-pop or kirana stores.

To be sure, the first phase that commenced on 16 January included provisions to vaccinate the country’s healthcare and frontline workers. In the second phase, those above 60 years of age along with those above 45-years, with co-morbidities, will be inoculated against covid-19. An estimated 10 crore people are expected to be covered under this phase.

Retailers such as Metro Cash and Carry, Ikea, Spencer’s among others have made representations seeking vaccination for their frontline staff.

“The guideline is currently to focus on those over 60, and those over 45 with comorbidities. What the government is doing is quite sensible, and we support that. We are saying in the next round give priority to the frontline staff of all the retail companies and also small shopkeepers who probably don't have a voice," said Arvind Mediratta, MD and CEO, METRO Cash and Carry India.

Mediratta is also chair of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry’s (FICCI) committee on retail and internal trade—which includes retail companies covering food and grocery, general merchandise and apparel.

Mediratta said the company has made the representations to the chief minister of Karnataka to even incorporate kirana store workers in the next phase of vaccination.

Retail workers typically working in the stores are in the younger age profile, “the average age will be around between maybe 30-32 years or even younger," he said.

Swedish retailer Ikea too is working towards accelerating vaccination drive for retail workers as part of industry body FICCI. “IKEA India is participating in a FICCI committee bringing together retailers for vaccinating retail frontline workers. We are looking forward to next steps. During the pandemic, retail has contributed immensely to support citizens and economic recovery. Keeping this in mind, IKEA will partner with all stakeholders to accelerate vaccination for retail coworkers and hope there can be more industry collaborations to make this happen quickly," said Parineeta Cecil Lakra, Country People and Culture Manager IKEA India.

Apart from seeking vaccination for staff—private sector companies have also been vocal about helping speed up the vaccination drive in the country.

Mediratta said the company is open to taking on the cost of vaccination for its kirana customers. It has even offered to allow usage of space at its stores i.e. parking lots, for setting up of temporary vaccination centres.

Nestle India said it encourages vaccination of its staff. "At the moment, CII National Council, which I am a part of, along with FICCI and others, are in conversation with the government on a private sector involvement in the vaccination process. This is in terms of the procurement for employees, their families, etc as well. I do hope that there is a reasonable clarity on this soon. As a company, we have a global stated policy where we encourage our people to get the vaccination. We want our people to be protected and are willing to put our best foot forward for ourselves and for the community we serve," said Suresh Narayanan, chairman and managing director, Nestlé India Ltd.

The cumulative number of vaccines administered in the country crossed 1.37 crore, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) said last week. This includes vaccination administered to both frontline and healthcare workers.

Panasonic India said it will roll out a covid vaccination drive for all employees at the electronics maker once the vaccination is readily available. “To safeguard our employees and their families we have upgraded their health benefits too. For instance, Mediclaims have been relooked at and benefits have been added here. In fact , we have plans to issue Covid-19 vaccine to all our employees once it is readily accessible," said Adarsh Mishra, chief human resources officer at Panasonic India.

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