A work family that gets vaccinated together, stays together. That's the thought Douglas Gourzong, CEO of WISE Construction Group Ltd, harboured as he motivated all 30 of his employees to get the jab last month to protect themselves from COVID-19.
After getting vaccinated in June, Gourzong made it his duty to ensure that his staff followed suit. He told the Jamaica Observer, however, that he did not issue a mandate, instead he encouraged them out of concern for their well-being.
“It was clear in speaking to members of our team that much of their concerns centred around misinformation and falsehoods circulating on social media and elsewhere. The need to educate staff and provide them with more factual and science-based information became very apparent. We did this in group sessions, one on one sessions, and by stressing that we understood the magnitude of the decision but that we genuinely believed it to be in their best interest to do so,” Gourzong told the Sunday Observer.
“As we executed this educational exercise, we highlighted that, in our opinion, any potential side effects were far less risky than not taking the vaccine and simply waiting to catch the virus and hoping to be one of the lucky ones to not get seriously ill or die. We stressed repeatedly that the potential outcomes of catching COVID were too varied and that getting vaccinated at least minimised the risks of seriously illness associated with the dreaded virus,” he explained.
“It was amazing to see staff, many of whom had vowed to never take the vaccine, coming together, seeking additional information and ultimately deciding to get vaccinated. They believed in us and what we represented to them, and they to us — not just as employees but as a family. Not one employee was forced to take the vaccine, yet every single one of our employees willingly agreed to do so,” added Gourzong who had transported all his employees to the National Arena last month to take the jab.
One of the employees, 33-year-old Dwayne Walker, told the Sunday Observer yesterday that he had always shunned the COVID-19 vaccine until he was empowered by Gourzong.
“I was against the vaccine before in a way. I was afraid to take it. I have an underlying illness, that is asthma, and I was still afraid. But the boss show mi say a the right thing, so mi just do the right thing. Me seeing him take it and see that nothing is wrong with him made me view the vaccine differently and believe that nothing is wrong with it. We just have to work with it,” he said.
He added that contrary to his expectations, his symptoms post-vaccination were minimal.
“After I took it, mi just feel a little pain in my joints for one day, and the next day, mi alright again. Nothing nuh wrong with mi. It surprised a lot of people that I took the vaccine and certain people motivated fi get it now. Mi tell a lot of people fi take it but at the end of the day, some say them a go take it and some a say dem affi watch and see first. But you have to do it for yourself. You cyaa do it for nobody else,” Walker said.
Unlike Walker, 39-year-old James Edwards always understood the importance of the vaccine. However, he told the Sunday Observer that he was too scared to commit to getting the shot.
“I wasn't against it because mi done know say a fi we own good. And when the boss get it and come and a tell wi a thing, I was the second one to say mi ready. That was the best thing for me and my family,” he said.
“A the boss put food pon we table and without him, we wouldn't have a work. And is a man that we are used to. So to see him get the vaccine and come a work quite alright and everything, it was motivating. We just work with the process. And it's a good process because I don't feel any way. The area where I got it was a little numb for about 10, 15 minutes, but otherwise, all is well. Right now, I am waiting on the second dose,” added Edwards.
He said he is pleased to know that Gourzong saw it fit to ensure that he and his co-workers were vaccinated, and advised sceptics to get immunised.
“A good thing that. Some people boss a force them, but the boss nuh force we. I did it off my own will. It was for my own safety and my yute safety. My daughter is four years old. To the people out there, tek unnu vaccine,” Edwards advised.
Likewise, Monique Hamilton, 36, expressed gratitude to Gourzong for pushing her to make the decision.
“That makes me feel good. He is always looking out for all of us. Him look out for every one of us. He is a wonderful individual. Before, I was against taking the vaccine but he encouraged me to go and do it and I went and got it and everybody that is here got it. The first instance when he came though and said it, I was hesitant,” Hamilton recalled.
“But seeing him get it and return to normal okay and not sick, made me more comfortable getting it. I even told my friends to go and do it as well. They asked me how I feel and I just tell them that I'm not feeling any pain or anything. After I got it, everything was just smooth,” she said.
Thirty-four-year-old Ricardo Thompson told the Sunday Observer that prior to Gourzong's encouragement he was a devout anti-vaxer.
“At first, hearing about the vaccine, I was never interested in it. It was my boss who made a step and took it and showed us that it is something to not be afraid of. I have to give thumbs up to Mr Gourzong for that. He educated us and encouraged us to take it.
“I was like 'Sir, that is you.' Then by watching the news and seeing the numbers [of infections] going up, I said it was time. But the main reason is Mr Gourzong, and since that, I ended up influencing others to take it. I influenced my mom and my sister. They said they will take it and I will continue to motivate them,” Thompson said.
Yesterday, Gourzong said: “My experience here has shown me that all persons are reachable on this vaccine issue, once the message is clear, the communication is effective, and the persons transmitting the message are seen as trustworthy and genuinely offering well intended and factual information.”
“As a member of our team aptly put it prior to boarding our bus heading the vaccination site, 'Bossie, wi ah WISE-up an do dis ting'.”