March 23, 2021

4 Ways Employers Can Boost Vaccine Acceptance and Uptake

Employers have a critical role to play in helping end the COVID-19 pandemic by encouraging vaccine acceptance and uptake among their employees, including those most vulnerable to COVID-19, experts explained in a recent Purchaser Business Group on Health webinar.

“Your leadership really matters,” said Deb Friesen, MD, a physician advisor with Kaiser Permanente Clinical Solutions. “One of the things we’ve found is that your employees consider you the most trusted source of information related to the coronavirus, more credible than even government health organizations or the media. So, your role here is crucial.”

Friesen was joined in the March 17 webinar by Stephen Massey, managing director of the Health Action Alliance, a group formed to support employers in strengthening vaccine acceptance, advancing health equity and rebuilding public health.

“Even before all adults are eligible for vaccines, it’s important that companies begin preparing their workforce by sharing trusted information and making plans to reduce barriers to vaccination,” Massey said.

4 Steps Employers Can Take to Increase Employee Vaccinations

Friesen and Massey highlighted four steps employers can take to accelerate vaccine acceptance and uptake:

1) Spread a message of confidence and encouragement around vaccine safety and efficacy. It’s not so much that people are hesitant about vaccination; they simply need access to more trusted information about vaccines. Messages that encourage vaccination should focus on the importance of creating a safe environment for family, friends and co-workers, and emphasize that vaccines can help us all get back to doing things we love with the people we love.

Friesen also provided nuance about the vaccines that is valuable for people to understand and important for employers to include in their messaging: that when a vaccine is reported to have an efficacy rate of 95%, as with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it means their chances of getting infected are decreased by 95% — not that those inoculated have a 5% chance of getting the disease. The studies on available COVID vaccines are demonstrating that each is incredibly effective, particularly when weighed against the annual flu shot, which in its best years is 40% to 60% effective at preventing disease. Significantly, each of the COVID vaccines currently available in the U.S. are 100% effective at preventing severe disease and the need for hospitalization.

2) Collaborate with community public health and health care partners to proactively engage workforce populations that may have unique concerns or questions, or who may need extra support accessing vaccines.   Disproportionately lower numbers of Black and Hispanic Americans are receiving vaccines, despite their higher risk of infection, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. It is essential that employers develop targeted communications and policies to build trust and boost vaccine access among these populations.  Engaging trusted messengers, including employee resource groups and other affinity networks, should be central to your strategy.

3) Make it easier to get vaccinated. Provide accommodations for vaccine appointments whenever possible for both full-time and part-time employees, contract workers and other personnel. Offer paid time-off and transportation to and from vaccination sites and childcare for employees who might otherwise be unable to schedule vaccine appointments. And as vaccine supply increases, consider engaging your local public health department and offering to host an on-site vaccine clinic at your place of business.

4) Take advantage of available resources. The Health Action Alliance has developed a wide range of free tools for improving vaccine acceptance and strengthening equity, including a sample communications plan, messaging for at-risk groups, peer-to-peer training and dialog and guidance for educating and engaging employees. Visit the organization’s website to learn more.

“At the end of the day, the most important thing any company can do right now is to share trusted information about the safety and efficacy of vaccines and make it as easy as possible for employees and workers to get vaccinated when it’s their turn,” Massey said.  “By taking action to strengthen and accelerate the vaccine rollout, businesses can help turn the tide against COVID-19 and create a stronger, healthier future for everyone in America.”

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