The last phases of Coronavirus vaccination eligibility are beginning to open and a countrywide goal to make all adults eligible to receive the vaccine by May 2021 has been announced. The time is now for employers to develop detailed plans to protect their workforce while remaining fully operational.
Experts agree the speed in which an economic recovery will be possible is dependent upon how quickly a large percentage of the population can be protected from COVID-19 by vaccinations. As with most employee issues, employers will bear the burden of communicating this message to employees. Employer philosophy should be fact-dependent and take into consideration the composition of one’s workforce, local community spread, and a whole host of additional factors.
The following checklist is an overview of the process we use to guide our clients through creating a COVID-19 vaccination plan for their business:
1) Vaccine Committee
Convene a committee to suggest and develop recommendations for your business. This committee should either be comprised of, or receive input from, human resources and workplace safety. The committee can serve as a central point of contact for the company program and assist in implementing the development and rollout of your plan. The committee can also assist in educating employees about the vaccine. They can direct traffic and assist employees who choose to get the vaccine on how to sign up for vaccination, identify vaccine locations, or sign up for a government registration.
2) Employee Vaccine Eligibility
Although many states are pushing to open all phases by May 2021 or prior, and many states have adopted the federal guidance for vaccination eligibility phases, each state can define their own phases depending upon local considerations. Businesses can contact local government health officials to see if their business would be considered essential to ensure all employees will be eligible for vaccinations as soon as possible.
3) Effective Education Campaign
Worries over contracting COVID-19 from the vaccine, and other safety concerns, are often based on inaccurate articles or even misinformation. You can help ease some of this apprehension by providing material from the CDC, your state or local health authority, or local healthcare organizations. Accurate information and clarifications will address misinformation directly. This includes being as forthcoming as possible about likely side effects and providing information about the benefits of getting vaccinated. Employees who understand how the vaccine has been tested and its efficacy are more likely to get vaccinated. In providing access to helpful information, be mindful that employees place much more confidence in information from established healthcare authorities rather than material from political figures.
4) Vaccine Incentives
If considering an incentive program to increase vaccination compliance, each employer will need to understand the potential legal risks related to wellness program rules, IRS requirements, ADA accommodations, religious accommodations, financial limitations on incentives, and notice requirements under the federal law. According to several surveys, the two most popular incentive categories include cash/gifts (38%) and paid time off (30%).
5) On-Site Vaccinations
Some larger employers may be able to establish an on-site vaccination center, permitting healthcare personnel on your property to administer the vaccine to your workers and perhaps members of the local community. On-site vaccinations are known to increase vaccination rates and reduce the time your workers would need to spend traveling to a vaccination center.
6) Plan for Post-Vaccination Issues
It is not uncommon for COVID-19 vaccine recipients to experience side effects, such as pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and chills, most often within 24 hours of receiving the second dose of the vaccine. You should proactively consider how to handle issues that arise as a result.
Employees will be less inclined to get vaccinated if they believe they may have to miss work due to side effects and possibly not be paid or be forced to use their banked paid time off (PTO).
Consider not scheduling employees for the day after receiving the second dose of Coronavirus vaccine or providing additional PTO after the second dose and be willing to extend it for employees who experience side effects for more than one day. Also consider providing a chunk of PTO to employees who voluntarily choose to get vaccinated.
Work with your staff to stagger vaccine appointments – especially the second dose – within departments or units. A staggered schedule can help avoid staffing shortages and keep your operations running.
7) Keep COVID-19 Workplace Safety Measures Firmly in Place
According to the CDC, not enough of the population has been vaccinated to be able to recommend when your employees can safely work without masks or social distancing protocols—even after they have been vaccinated. Require your workforce to adhere to common CDC recommendations until updated guidelines have been published.
CDC Guidelines in place today.
- Wearing a mask over nose and mouth
- Staying at least six feet away from others
- Avoiding crowds
- Avoiding poorly ventilated spaces
- Washing hands often
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