While decisions regarding vaccine distribution vary by state and local governments, eligibility will soon expand to most adults in the United States. This means it’s time for employers to prepare to put plans into action. For some organizations, these plans may include a workplace vaccination program. This HR Insights article provides an overview of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for workplace vaccination programs, including guidance for on-site and off-site vaccinations and general considerations for employers.
On-site Vaccination Programs
Some workplaces may be eligible to offer a COVID-19 vaccination program on-site. These programs provide free vaccines on-site, which generally are distributed through existing occupational health clinics, employer-run temporary vaccination clinics or mobile vaccination clinics brought to the workplace.
These programs can ease the process for employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by removing potential barriers. A vaccinated workforce can create benefits for workplaces, such as improved employee health, and reduced illnesses and absences. These benefits can directly impact employees—as well as employers, and the overall health and morale of a workplace.
Considering an On-site Program
Employers should consider an on-site workplace vaccination program if they have:
Planning An On-site Vaccination Program
For employers considering implementing a workplace COVID-19 vaccination program, the planning process should include input from management, HR and employees. When planning, employers should:
Not all workplaces will be eligible to offer an on-site workplace vaccination program, and in some cases, it simply may not feasible or the best option. Regardless, employers can play a key role in helping employees get vaccinated in their communities.
Considering Off-site Vaccinations
Employers should consider off-site vaccination if they:
Planning Off-site Vaccinations
Employers can consider off-site options in their community. These include:
Employers not hosting a vaccination clinic at their workplace can consider other steps to encourage vaccination:
Workplace Vaccination Program Considerations
Whether offering an on-site vaccination program or encouraging employees to become vaccinated in the community, there are some general considerations for employers, listed below.
Building Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccines
Employers can play a key role in building employees’ confidence about COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine confidence is the trust that employees, their families and providers have in:
Employers can build vaccine confidence by making confidence visible in the workplace. Consider these steps:
Employers should also be prepared to allow time for vaccine confidence to grow. Employees who are hesitant at first may become more confident after seeing co-workers get vaccinated.
Scheduling Employee Vaccinations
Some employees may experience side effects, which are normal signs that their body is building protection. These side effects may affect their ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. The CDC encourages employers to provide flexible leave policies for those who may have post-vaccination symptoms. To accommodate, employers may choose to offer flexible, nonpunitive sick leave options (e.g., paid sick leave) for employees with signs and symptoms after vaccination too.
Employers can consider staggering employee vaccination to avoid worker shortages due to vaccine side effects. Notably, for employees who receive a two-dose vaccine, staggering may be more important for the second dose, after which side effects are more frequent. To help ensure continuity of operations, employers may consider staggering vaccination for employees in the same job category or who work in the same area of a facility. Staggering vaccination for employees may cause delays in vaccinating staff, and the decision to stagger vaccination will need to be weighed against potential inconveniences that might reduce vaccine acceptance. Employers that choose to stagger vaccine administration should also ensure all employees receive the recommended number of doses.
Employers that choose to offer a vaccine program should be prepared to respond to employees with exemptions:
Employers should consider whether vaccination programs fit into their return-to-work and any workplace vaccination plans. After employees are fully vaccinated, they may be able to start doing some things they had stopped doing because of the pandemic. However, even after employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine, they may still need to continue to take steps to protect themselves and others in work settings.
For more information about eligibility to host a workplace vaccination program, check with your local health officials. Employers can also review CDC resources with up-to-date information regarding workplace vaccination programs. Contact us today for more return-to-work resources.