(by Andres Rojas)
According to the CDC, more than 131 million Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Whether they’re getting the shot at work or a government or healthcare provider center, the mass vaccinations (more than 3 million doses per day) give us reason to hope. Indeed, some experts believe that 70% of the population could be vaccinated by November of this year –which effectively means achieving herd immunity.
And yet there’s still much work to be done as almost 1 in 5 Americans said they won’t be getting the vaccine anytime soon.
Employers have the power to promote vaccine education and incentivize their workers to get the shot, but only if they do it sensibly. So read on to learn how you can promote workplace health among your staff.
Create Positive Incentives to Encourage Workers’ Vaccinations
While most employees are open to getting vaccinated, offering rewards and recognition for getting the shot will make this a no-brainer decision for most people. Whether they’re neighborhood grocery stores or multinational giants, a rising number of companies are paying their employees to get vaccinated.
Financial rewards can take many forms, such as paid leave, cash bonuses, or retirement contributions among others.
Some companies, like McDonald’s, are offering four hours of paid time to employees who get vaccinated. Other companies, such as Florida’s Beef O’Brady’s restaurant chain, are giving gift cards to employees who get the shot.
Unlike mandatory vaccinations, incentives represent the carrot without the stick. And yet they still exist in a grey zone that might be considered discriminatory in the future. So if you’re planning to use them, make sure your legal team takes part in their design.
Make Vaccinations a Prominent Part of Your Employee Benefits Program
Although the federal government has covered the cost of the vaccines so far, providers might charge an “administration fee” when they give the shot. And considering that COVID will likely stay with us in some form or another during the coming years, making Coronavirus vaccinations part of your fringe benefits program makes total sense.
Your employees will feel more enticed to get vaccinated if they know that the costs of their COVID preventive care – which can require multiple shots – are covered by your group health plan.
Moreover, your COVID-related benefits shouldn’t stop at covering preventive care. But rather extend to include anything that could help your employees get vaccinated, such as:
- Paid time off.
- Riding/driving expenses.
- Child care services.
- Sick time – in case the vaccine has side effects.
Promote Vaccine Education Among Your Workers
As with most social problems, the solution to our Coronavirus pains starts with education. Back in January, a worrying study showed that 60% of Americans didn’t know where or when they could get vaccinated.
Although vaccine awareness has improved since then, political, regional, and racial disparities come into play. For example, 41% of Republicans don’t plan on getting vaccinated, most rural Americans are disconnected from national health trends, and Black and Hispanic Americans remain underrepresented in vaccine clinical trials. All these factors stand in our way to achieving herd immunity.
By creating an education program that shares health information from government agencies – such as the CDC’s communication toolkit – without disrespecting your workers political and religious beliefs, you will be helping to close these gaps, speed up the pandemic’s end, ensure your workers’ efficiency, and quite possibly save their lives.
Listen and Address Your Employees’ Concerns
The rushed development and deployment of the vaccines – currently none of the three vaccines has been fully authorized by the FDA – has made a lot of people feel understandably wary of them.
Some workers may fear that the cure may be worse than the disease. You can help dispel their fears by calling attention to the extremely low rate of serious side effects – like anaphylaxis or other allergic reactions – which the vaccines have caused out of millions of doses.
You should also consider your most vulnerable employees, such as the elderly and pregnant women, and people with special circumstances. You should go out of your way whenever you can to ensure they get the preventive care they need first.
Although we have made tremendous progress so far, there’s still much to be done before gathering around the office’s water cooler feels normal and safe again.
If we’re to close this terrible chapter of our history and move forward with newly gained confidence, employers must do their part to educate and promote vaccination among their workers.
So don’t wait until tomorrow to do your part. And if you need any help promoting workplace health: please, reach out.