Eduard Bobritsky: The best way to create collective immunity is vaccination

Eduard Bobritsky: The best way to create collective immunity is vaccination

Eduard Bobritsky, Director of the Human Resources Department of JSC USC, talks about the most pressing global issue of 2020-2021, the coronavirus pandemic, and how it has been handled by the company’s enterprises

USC: You have been in charge of the anti-COVID-19 task force at USC enterprises for over a year now. What is the most important outcome of your work?

– Since April of last year, we naturally have learned how to work in a pandemic. A year ago, we tried to figure out how to organize shifts at enterprises, how to work remotely, how many people could be left in the office, how to communicate with the contractors, how to go on business trips and receive inspections at enterprises. Now we know how to organize all this quite well.

For example, all our contractors, those who work in the factory shops and those who arrive when equipment is to be installed, or inspections coming for some kind of checks, they all work in accordance with the established requirements for the staff, and they produce either valid PCR test results or documents confirming vaccination. Let me remind you that last year we had to put people coming to work in quarantine for two weeks.

As for our employees, over the past year we have built a system of ongoing tests. Tests are run a few times a week or a few times a month, depending on the enterprise and the severity of the situation in the region. This system allows us to identify sick cases in a timely manner and promptly limit their contacts, and, of course, we recommend that they seek medical assistance immediately. All information flows to the task force and is scrutinized. Every week, we fill out a very large reporting form, which was introduced by the Industry and Trade Ministry. Over the year, we have updated it significantly, and now it includes information about the percentage of those doing remote work and the severity of cases. There is also a column, recording deaths; unfortunately, our corporation was also affected that way. This year, the columns on vaccination were added: How many people got inoculated with the first vaccine, how many received both shots. Enterprises supply us with all this data in a very organized manner, and by the end of the week we at the task force have accurate information about the epidemiological situation across the USC. We transfer this information to the Industry and Trade Ministry, so it has summary data on the situation across the entire industrial sector of the country.

USC: Going back to prior reports, what was the most difficult time?

– Probably the very first months, when it was necessary to build a communication system very quickly. People at the enterprises did not yet know then who should be responsible for this, where they should get information, where they should register it, and so on. Sometimes we had to collect information at night, from more than forty companies, sometimes just by phone. And what could we do if there were calls from the Industry and Trade Ministry at 1 am, new assignments were given, according to which we had to collect and send information to them by 9 am?

Now this is a regular activity that takes place during working hours, almost always. A specialized information system has been put in place, where all data are uploaded, and it works. In accordance with the data received from us, the Industry and Trade Ministry makes recommendations. For example, when the number of infected cases began to grow again in Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as in other regions, earlier this summer, the Industry and Trade Ministry promptly recommended switching a certain percentage of the personnel at the enterprises to remote work.

But with all this, the military-industrial complex must fulfill its obligations to clients, both the Defense Ministry and civil customers, so offices, the administrative and managerial staff could switch to partially remote work, while the bulk of the production workers, especially those involved in state defense orders, could not. And they went to their shifts and worked – naturally, in compliance with all safety precautions.

USC:On the back of this year of the pandemic, how did it affect the achievement of production targets?

– Well-coordinated work of the management of the enterprises and the corporation and the employees’ responsible attitude to sanitary measures allowed us to avoid situations where the pandemic would somehow affect the fulfillment of the orders. As of this moment, we did not and do not have situations where we did not fulfill an order due to the pandemic. Yes, we had to spread shifts: For example, previously, everyone used to come by 8 am, now people may come, say, from 7 to 10 am, in order to avoid crowds at the checkpoint. At certain places, more buses were allocated to deliver workers. With these and similar methods, we avoided both an increase in cases and non-fulfillment of orders.

USC: Talks about arranging post-COVID rehabilitation are heard more and more often at the federal level. What efforts are made at the USC in this respect?

– I would talk not only about post-COVID rehabilitation, but also about rehabilitation after all illnesses in general, as well as about prevention. This system has existed for decades, these are health centers and resorts for the employees and their children. Last year, this system practically was put on hold due to epidemiological restrictions in the regions, and people did not go to those health centers. This year, the regions are open, all health centers work again, in accordance with the new rules, and we have resumed large-scale distribution of vouchers for the improvement of people’s health, the way it was in 2018 and 2019. It is obvious that now demand has increased for those health centers where treatment and rehabilitation are offered for the organs that have been affected most of all during the epidemic – for example, the respiratory organs. People who were seriously ill have applied for vouchers to go to such health resorts, and we, of course, tried to cover rehabilitation costs from the budget for them.

USC: What methods does the corporation use to convince or encourage people to get vaccinated?

– That we need to acquire collective immunity is obvious. Without it, we will again experience tides and ebbs of infection, wave after wave. Vaccination is the best way to create collective immunity, and this has found proof time and again for centuries. We know perfectly well how the world was able to get rid of smallpox – only through vaccination. Many other diseases, such as measles, polio and others, have been overcome by vaccines given in childhood, with lifelong effects. Therefore, we need to discard all this chit-chat about whether we “should” or “should not” – obviously, we need to be vaccinated.

And, of course, in order to achieve that, people need to be motivated or encouraged to get vaccinated voluntarily. This is better than requiring or forbidding to go to work without a vaccination certificate; in fact, the labor code does not allow such restrictions to be put in place. The government did not introduce tough measures with respect to enterprises of the military-industrial complex, in contrast to the service sector, food industry and a number of others, where they were imposed for obvious reasons.

In a number of factories, we decided to give a paid day-off for the workers who get vaccinated within a specific time frame. According to multiple observations, the day after vaccination a person may experience discomfort, weakness, or may run a temperature. At this moment, it is better, of course, not to go to work but to lie down and stay at home for a day.

In addition, we organized field vaccination through our medical and sanitary units (where they exist – for example, at Sevmash, Zvezdochka, Baltic plant) or through federal institutions that have such a possibility. For example, R&D workers could get vaccinated right in their offices, and it took just one day. This could not be done everywhere; for example, in Moscow there are no such mobile teams providing free services, but, on the whole, the city organized free vaccinations in numerous shopping malls, multifunctional public service centers and outpatient facilities, which is very convenient for the public, so there is no particular need for such teams in the capital city. But in St. Petersburg, on the contrary, mobile teams going to enterprises and offices turned out to be the best method of organizing massive vaccination.

USC: Does the corporation have vaccination targets for enterprises?

– According to our recommendations, 60% of our workers should be vaccinated by September.

USC: When do you think it will be possible to talk about collective immunity and the post-pandemic world?

– In this case, I can only express my subjective opinion. I hear that around 800 vaccines have been developed in the world by now. If a year ago we were waiting for the first one, now in China alone there are about forty, there is also a vaccine in Cuba, and in Vietnam. Each month there will be more of them, more experience will be accumulated, companies and countries will share their practices, and vaccines will get better from one year to another. We do not know yet for how long this or that vaccine will effectively protect the body, but I think that pharmaceutical companies will still be seeking solutions that would work like vaccines against many horrible diseases: one shot in childhood – and protection for life. Perhaps science will not come to this stage quickly, but it will be developing in this direction.

USC:As the head of an anti-coronavirus task force, whose distinguished service would you like to commend during this year of work?

– First of all, I would like to mention my personnel management services. Over the past year, deputy directors for HR have borne the brunt of this problem at enterprises; they have been involved in making arrangements for all measures related to shift work, interaction with hospitals. I am grateful to those who took up this workload on a voluntary basis, without any instructions from us, in addition to their main functions, and got it going. I also would like to mention the divisions handling health and safety, they also had quite a burden to carry. And right now, I would like to thank those who are involved in organizing vaccination campaigns at enterprises. I think that at the end of the year we should somehow salute the enterprises where this process will be most successful.   

The very first months of the fight against the pandemic were the hardest


Eduard Bobritsky: The best way to create collective immunity is vaccination