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Employers’ Role in the Vaccine Rollout
Author: Dr. Brian Konowalchuk

Public health experts believe we need a large percentage of our population to become vaccinated against COVID-19 to keep everyone safe. Vaccines are our ticket out of the pandemic, but only if and when enough people step up to take them. Employers play a pivotal role in helping achieve this goal.

Supply challenges limited initial availability of the shots, but in Wisconsin everyone age 16 and older is currently eligible to be vaccinated. Research indicates most employers will likely encourage vaccination, but not mandate it. Employers are encouraged to share science-based, trusted information to support vaccine uptake among their employees.

Surveys show that not all employees want to receive this vaccine. People generally fall into three camps:
 
  • Early adopters – People anxious to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s available to them.
  • The “wait and see” crowd – Those who may be somewhat hesitant or need more information before making a decision.
  • The “no, not me” segment – People who have decided against COVID vaccination for personal reasons.

Make a plan: Prepare, procure and implement

Employers are encouraged to develop their own vaccine strategy, based on the individual needs of their workforce. This plan should include opportunities to train and educate employees on vaccine benefits by sharing evidence-based information from reliable sources such as Advocate Aurora Health.

How can employers effectively reach those employees needing more information or encouragement? Advocate Aurora has developed a vaccine resource center at aah.org/vaccine. This online hub, also available in Spanish, is filled with trustworthy information, including:
 
  • Latest vaccine news and insights.
  • Background information on vaccines.
  • Myths vs. facts.
  • Data on vaccine safety, efficacy, potential side effects.
Remove roadblocks to vaccination

Things are changing rapidly. Helping employees understand and navigate the current appointment and vaccination process is vital. Offering culturally appropriate communications will help engage, educate and increase vaccine literacy among any workforce.

Given the highly fluid environment surrounding COVID vaccines, providing frequent, up-to-date clear communications that address employee concerns is key. Proactive outreach can make the difference on whether an employee decides to be vaccinated.

Consider incentives and accommodations

Some employers are offering incentives to encourage employees to roll up their sleeves. Perks might be paying for time off to receive the vaccine, transportation to the vaccine site or other benefits such as a small monetary bonus or gift.

Employers may want to consider ways to accommodate workers who might experience temporary side effects such as fatigue on the day following vaccination. Having a place set aside to rest (a break room or lunch area) can be helpful.

A leadership opportunity

The safety, efficacy and benefits of COVID vaccines are clear. Right now, employers have a window of opportunity to help gain employees’ confidence and trust in receiving their vaccine. Encouraging COVID vaccination will help create a healthier, safer and more productive working environment for all. Forward-looking leadership is needed to build a culture of trust in the workplace — both now and into the post-pandemic future.

Want to learn more about vaccines? Visit aah.org/vaccine for more information.
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