Companies encourage vaccination of employees, but stick to mandates

This story also ran on US News & World Report. It can be republished for free.

Many of the companies with the largest number of employees say they will do almost anything to encourage their employees to get vaccinated. However, a survey of some of them found that no one would be inclined to fire gunshots as a requirement for being in a job.

Almost all of the 15 companies surveyed – among the largest and most influential Fortune 500 companies – have received strong pro-vaccine messages from their corporate executives, stressing that the shots can help both protect individuals and bring the pandemic to an end.

CVS Health, which delivers Covid vaccines as part of the federal pharmacy distribution program, says it strongly encourages the shots for its employees “from a public health perspective” but does not contract them. Starbucks also encourages the shots to “contain the spread of COVID-19,” but also does not mandate them.

Some companies give their employees paid time off to either take pictures or stay at home if they experience side effects. This trend could be exacerbated as the Biden government announced tax credits for smaller businesses offering up to 80 hours of paid sick leave through September 30.

The goal is to pay hourly workers up to four extra hours when they receive the vaccine (two hours per shot). Amazon is offering $ 40 per shot for hourly workers, and Kroger is giving employees $ 100 if they receive both cans.

“In our view, vaccination is absolutely the only way out of the pandemic, both for us to get back to normal and for the country,” said Dr. Vin Gupta, pulmonologist and chief physician for Amazon’s covid reaction.

Amazon, like other large retailers, has seen covid outbreaks at its workplaces during the pandemic. In October, it emerged that nearly 20,000 of the company’s 1.37 million frontline employees tested positive or were believed to have been infected with the Covid virus.

The company, which owns the Whole Foods Market, distribution warehouses, and data centers, has organized vaccination events for employees and delivery workers in at least 29 states and is among the giant companies doing the most to get their employees shot. However, Amazon does not currently prescribe vaccines.

Target, the only company among respondents that offers financial incentives, extra paid time off, and vaccinations on site, has no plans to contract the vaccinations.

However, the pandemic has resulted in a number of rapidly changing guidelines and recommendations from federal health officials, and some companies who initially declined their mandates said that could change.

“I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t predict the future, but that’s our message now,” said Carrie Altieri, IBM’s vice president of communications for Covid strategy.

Legal and public health experts warn of mandates before the Food and Drug Administration fully licenses the recordings, which could happen this summer. The vaccines have been approved by the FDA for “emergency use,” and since such employers cannot require them, some legal experts have argued. Even after licensing, companies could create a backlash if they ask employees to get it, said Joanne Rosen, lecturer and assistant director at the Center for Law and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

A mandate could upset certain employees while adding only a marginal increase in the number of vaccinations, say Rosen and others. It would be smarter to focus on “carrots instead of whips,” she said.

“If the purpose of a mandate is to make sure most people get vaccinated, then a backlash to a mandate where you’re reluctant or opposed to vaccination is the opposite of the outcome you want,” she said.

Once approved, employers would face fewer legal challenges with vaccine mandates, especially when employees work with medically vulnerable or vulnerable patients such as in nursing homes or prisons. Aside from those specific sectors, employee mandates aren’t necessarily a good idea from a public health perspective, said Michelle Mello, professor of law and medicine at Stanford University.

Hard-line vaccine opponents are unlikely to be bothered by an employment-related vaccine requirement, and it could risk alienating some in the “wait and see” contingent, she said.

About 6% of Americans not yet vaccinated against Covid said they would accept a shot if necessary, according to an April survey by the KFF. Another 15% who did not get a shot expressed a wait-and-see attitude towards vaccinations. And 13% flatly refused to be vaccinated.

Winning the small group who say they would get a shot if needed might not be worth the turmoil a mandate could create, Mello said.

Mandates could further politicize Covid vaccines in U.S. society, said Brian Castrucci, CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, a public health charity.

Polls by de Beaumont and GOP pollster Frank Luntz on April 15 found that 36% of those who voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election believed that promoting vaccines and incentives is important for American companies against 54% of Joe Biden voters. The poll also found that 41% of Trump voters felt that companies shouldn’t be involved in Covid vaccinations at all, compared to 18% of Biden voters.

“Vaccination will hit every button on the political right,” Castrucci said.

Once public health tools and strategies are politicized, local governments can simply take them off the table as an option. A new Florida law bans corporations and government agencies from showing evidence of covid vaccination. The law builds on Governor Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order, which he signed on April 2nd.

“Vaccine screening can be a useful tool,” Castrucci said. “Now it’s no longer available in Florida.”

Despite the potential backlash, the financial case for covid vaccination is clear, said Aaron Yelowitz, an economics professor at the University of Kentucky, given the effectiveness of the shots.

Taking into account the cost of shortened life spans, mental illness, and lost income from illness and stasis, the covid pandemic has cost the average American family of four nearly $ 200,000, according to analysis by researchers at Harvard.

Some of these costs could be borne by businesses in the form of lost productivity and higher health insurance prices, Yelowitz said. Financial incentives for the recordings are therefore an extremely tempting compromise, he said.

Incentives for vaccinations – like a $ 25 gift card or a free Uber ride – are “certainly worth it in terms of savings,” Yelowitz said. With that in mind, he also named the Ohio Gov’s $ 5 million vaccine lottery. Mike DeWine “innovative and imaginative”.

Currently, however, employers are sensitive to what they can and cannot ask of workers, said Lindsey Leininger, clinical professor of business administration at Dartmouth College. The tight labor market and tense, ongoing negotiations about when and how to get employees back into the office are making it hard for some companies to ask too much of their workers, said Leininger, the smaller company on covid vaccines and other issues advises.

“All of the companies I work with prefer carrots over whips,” she said. “How many things would you like to order from your employees at the moment?”

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces extensive journalism on health issues. Alongside Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three most important operational programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a foundation that provides health information to the nation.


This story can be republished for free (details).

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