In recent months, COVID-19 vaccines have become widely available. As a result, organizations may be adjusting their reopening strategies and updating their workplace health and safety protocols. If you are assisting in workplace reopening strategies or are simply curious about return-to-work vaccine considerations, it’s important to stay informed. Here, we provide an overview of the COVID vaccine, workplace vaccination programs, and employee vaccine considerations.
There are currently three COVID-19 vaccines available and recommended in the United States: Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. Moderna and Pfizer require two doses several weeks apart; Johnson & Johnson requires only one dose. Research has indicated that all three vaccines are safe and effective in both preventing COVID-19 and mitigating the virus’s severity if you do become infected.
All three available vaccines can lead to side effects, most commonly after the second dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. They are typically mild and dissipate within a few days. Frequent side effects include arm soreness at the injection site and symptoms including fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, chills, and fever.
Once you are fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that you can resume many of your pre-pandemic activities, such as engaging in social behavior without social distancing or wearing a face mask. With the wide availability of vaccines, most employers are encouraging employees to receive the vaccination, offering incentive programs, or establishing workplace vaccine programs.
In an effort to return to pre-pandemic workplace environments, improve public health and safety, and achieve herd immunity, the CDC is encouraging organizations to facilitate employee vaccination. Current guidance recommends that small and medium organizations promote offsite employee vaccination and that large employers consider offering onsite employee vaccination programs.
If your organization has a large workforce, predictable scheduling, and adequate space for a socially-distanced clinic, developing a workplace vaccination program is an effective way to facilitate workplace health and safety. However, if your organization is small or midsize, has varied worksites, and variable employee schedules, offsite vaccination may be a better option.
If you are considering a workplace vaccination program, it’s important to do the following:
Regardless of your organization’s vaccine policies, there are several things to keep in mind as you modify workplace policies to accommodate employee vaccinations. Common considerations include the following:
If your organization chooses to require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccination in order to return to the workplace, these factors are particularly important to consider.
The CDC and other health organizations recommend that employers encourage employees to get vaccinated and establish supportive procedures and policies. This can help workplaces achieve herd immunity, avoid employee sick leave, and prevent outbreaks within your organization.
Strategies for encouraging employee vaccination can include informing them of vaccination sites and considerations, addressing vaccine skepticism, providing incentives for vaccination, and offering time off in the event of side effects. It is also important to remind employees to receive their second dose of the vaccine, as many Americans are skipping their second dose.
Additionally, it's important to be aware of legal considerations; in recent months, many organizations have faced unsafe workplace lawsuits regarding COVID-19 procedures. To avoid COVID-related litigation, your organization should ensure that you maintain OSHA compliance, follow CDC guidance, and consider EEOC policies.
Regardless of your organization’s vaccine policies, Vector LiveSafe can help you safely reopen and maintain employee and organizational health and safety. With features such as broadcast messaging, anonymous employee tip submission, two-way messaging, and customizable resources, LiveSafe facilitates easy, reliable communication of COVID-related policies and procedures and enables employees to report questions and concerns.
Additionally, Vector LiveSafe’s COVID-specific offering, WorkSafe, offers daily health survey functionality and one-touch access to CDC guidance. Both LiveSafe and WorkSafe can help you remain in compliance with OSHA’s guidance for return-to-work prevention strategies and protect your workforce from illness. Once the threat of COVID-19 has dissipated, these Vector platforms can also be used to prevent and address workplace embezzlement, lone worker threats, mental health crises, and more.