The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all organizations to take a closer look at their travel risk policies. Protecting the health and safety of travelers highlights the increasing importance of having a Duty of Care plan. With the introduction of vaccines, this will remain the case for a while to come.
We’ve seen exciting news of vaccines noting over 90% efficacy. When Covid-19 vaccines were first beginning to be investigated, the decision – at least in the U.S – was that they would be approved if they had at least 50% efficacy. Now everybody is stunned that efficacy is over 90%. The announcements have tremendous implications on public health and achieving herd immunity.
However, In terms of availability, we can’t jump the gun and get excited too quickly. Even after vaccinations begin, the return to our prior normal is not going to be a fast revolution; it’s going to be more of a slow evolution as we monitor the effect on public health and the public’s willingness to receive the vaccine. Distribution may present some challenges. And of course, in the beginning, prioritization is going to be for frontline and essential workers and vulnerable populations.
We can reasonably expect general vaccinations to take place sometime around June and continue through to the end of next year. The first generation of vaccines may not be perfect but the great news is that we’re not just looking at one vaccine with one methodology. We don’t have all of our eggs in one basket and lots of eggs seem to be hatching all at once. It’s probable that there won’t be one clear ‘winner.’ The vaccines will come from diverse backgrounds and technologies and offer different strengths in different populations.
Additionally, there will probably be insufficient supply, at least initially, of a single vaccine. However, collaboration and standardized approaches for assessing different efficacy endpoints will be important to allow meaningful comparison and ensure that the most effective candidates are deployed. There are still questions around a vaccine, which cannot be answered yet such as what the long-term baseline titer going to be. These are important questions, and we need to answer them with appropriate studies.
What’s the relevance of all of this for travel managers? The question arises whether companies will require travelers – or indeed, all employees – to get vaccinated. In the meantime, we’re going to be returning to normal gradually. It’s still critical for travel managers to understand the Covid risk at a destination, and the requirements for social distancing and mask-wearing. It’s going to continue to be incumbent on travel managers to educate travelers and it behooves everybody to prepare for the same risk factors as before the vaccine before they embark on their travels. The emergence of vaccines is wonderful news. In the interim, we can’t take our eye off the ball. We must continue to focus on all of the important mitigating measures.