Apr 22, 2021

Creating a safe workspace to talk about the vaccine

At AKD, we believe in the power of conversation to stimulate new thinking and change. We recently put that into practice, running "The Covid-19 Vaccine - Let's Have a Conversation" workshops for a leading global healthcare company.

The managing directors approached us, after low uptake of the vaccination amongst their 156 Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues, with only seven opting in. Their main concern was that some of their colleagues were averse to taking the vaccine due to unvoiced fears and perhaps a sense of suspicion about its validity.

AKDs goal was to create a safe, confidential space for colleagues to talk and empower them to leave the workshops, better informed about their vaccine decisions. As a Black female coach and facilitator with a pharmaceutical background, I was in a unique position to offer support in a bespoke way. 

We're all in this together!

One of the questions we explored during the workshop was participants previous experiences of vaccinations and whether they were positive, negative or neutral. This conversation served as an anchor, reminding us that vaccines aren't new, but our memories heavily influence our fears or impressions of what might happen. One colleague positively recalled having the BCG vaccination at school surrounded by her friends: "We cheered each other on, shared battle stories and later compared scars". 

This opened up a powerful discussion about applying a similar mindset to our approach to taking the Covid-19 vaccine. It also fed into conversations about 'the greater good', knowing that vaccinations protect others, not just ourselves.

We delved into fears around the speed of the roll-out and the fact that this unprecedented turnaround was because, as a global crisis, COVID-19 vaccine development rightly received the highest priority and funding.

Information is knowledge, and knowledge is power.

A key challenge many people faced was the prevalence of 'fake news' and targeted rumours, rotating around social media, making it hard to know what to believe, even if you work in healthcare. 

We had a robust conversation about distinguishing fact from fiction, knowing where to find the right sources of information, and how doing this equips you to make more informed decisions leaving you feeling empowered. Several colleagues attending the workshops said the discussions helped them feel knowledgeable enough to share what they had learnt with others in their world who are still asking questions.

I left the session energised, having witnessed the power of informed and honest conversation to influence positive change. 

Written by Maureen Obatomi, Associate