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Although Covid-19 entered the world stage in March of last year, cure rates around the world vary by region.
The United States and United Kingdom are among the regions with the highest vaccine distribution rates. According to Our World in Data, a project by the charity Global Change Data Lab in England and Wales, 68% of people in the UK and 56% of people in the US have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Despite warnings from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the delta variant now accounts for 83% of all sequenced cases in the United States, consumers in these regions are celebrating the “end of Covid” with a full social calendar and a revival of the associated wardrobe that focuses on denim. According to the latest report from the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA), U.S. jeans imports jumped 29.18 percent year-on-year in the five months through May to a value of 1 , $ 15 billion, putting pressure on denim suppliers and manufacturers to meet peak demand. While the surge provides an opportunity for communities most affected by the pandemic to make a financial return, it also poses a higher risk of infection, as many of these regions remain in the midst of a public health crisis.
The report says most of the denim shipments came from communities that remain massively under-vaccinated. Bangladesh and Mexico, which together accounted for about $ 451 million in jeans imports to the United States, are suffering, with just 4 percent of the population of Bangladesh and 27 percent of the Mexican population receiving their first dose.
The current disconnection creates a situation in which textile workers – a particularly vulnerable population who tend to suffer from malnutrition and have limited access to health care – must choose between maintaining a source of income and protecting their well-being.
Mills to the rescue
Factories around the world have tried to close this gap by introducing vaccination programs that lower barriers to access and encourage employees to get vaccinated. Arvind Denim, located in India, has organized on-site vaccination campaigns for all employees with the support of the government of Gujarat, where its facilities are located. As of July, Arvind’s Denim business had vaccinated 85% of its workforce, a stark contrast to the country’s first dose rate of 22%.
Arvind offered the vaccines for free, said Aamir Akhtar, company CEO, lifestyle fabric. “For us, the health and well-being of employees takes priority over expenses.
Based in Pakistan, Naveena Denim Mills has vaccinated 50 percent of its workforce, representing 450 employees, and expects those who remain to be vaccinated within the next two to three weeks. In contrast, 4 percent of the Pakistani population is vaccinated.
According to Adil Khalil, senior director of compliance at Naveena Denim Mills, the company “is doing everything possible to facilitate access to vaccines.” The company organized free transportation for 40 to 45 employees daily to get vaccinated in Karachi, where it is based. Although the government provides free vaccines to all residents of the country, transportation to vaccination sites, which Naveena has covered, can present a big hurdle.
Crescent Bahuman Limited and Artistic Fabric Mills (AFM), also based in Pakistan, also unveiled vaccination programs for their employees. According to Zaki Saleemi, vice president of Crescent, the company offered on-site vaccination campaigns in June sponsored by the government of Pakistan, helping it achieve 100% vaccination at its facilities.
Likewise, through its Artistic Cares foundation, the AFM set up registrars at all of its facilities to help workers register for the vaccine and offered free transportation to and from facilities. government-run vaccination centers. It has also set up on-site centers during working hours at its facilities to provide workers with hassle-free vaccinations.
But it’s not just a question of access that prevents some populations from getting vaccinated. For some, it is a matter of mistrust. Arvind beat vaccine skepticism by rolling out internal awareness campaigns distributed through its employee web portal, emails, and virtual interactions that included physician-approved information about Covid-19 and all preventive measures available.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about vaccines and their effects that discourage people from getting vaccinated,” said Saba Iqbal, AFM’s director of operations. “At AFM, we are doing our part by counseling our employees and encouraging them to get vaccinated, as well as their families and communities. “
To respond to their hesitation, the factory has set up programs to encourage and educate workers through awareness programs led by health professionals. He also went one step further and offered fully vaccinated people the chance to win prizes in exchange for a copy of their vaccination cards. As of July, 25 percent of the company’s workforce had been vaccinated, and the number is growing every day. Once 100 percent of its employees are vaccinated, AFM will offer the vaccine to their family members with the aim of getting more people vaccinated and helping to increase the vaccination rate in the country.
But the responsibility for reducing the risk of infection does not lie solely with factories. Through their purchasing practices, brands and retailers can also influence the well-being of workers in the supply chain.
A 2021 report from the Better Buying Institute, a Texas-based research organization, and Ulula, a supply chain technology company, indicated that the pressure resulting from canceled orders and negotiated rates had led to an increase layoffs of workers, an increase in overtime for workers and the escalation of contracting out or temporary work. On the other hand, ethical practices such as flexible delivery times and prepayment plans have enabled suppliers to better follow social distancing guidelines, contribute to worker benefits, and provide personal protective equipment ( PPE) adequate.
The purchasing practices of brands and retailers during the pandemic, he found, had a direct effect on the livelihoods of garment workers. By leading ethically, all actors in the supply chain can work together to deal with the pandemic.