What Your Organization Needs to Know About the COVID Vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines are here, and as distribution begins, now is the time for business owners to start planning. The end of the pandemic may be in sight, but it will take some time for the general population to get their vaccine and for things to return to a somewhat normal state. With so many considerations, you may be wondering what this means for your business and employees.
Here’s what you need to know about the COVID vaccine.
COVID-19 Vaccine 101
There are two vaccines currently available, created and distributed through Pzizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The Pfizer vaccine is taken in two doses, with the second administered 21 days after the initial one. Moderna’s is also taken in two doses, 28 days apart. Pfizer’s is 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID, while Moderna’s is 94% effective.
Why should people get the vaccine?
Encouraging employees to get the vaccine is important, as it can seriously reduce the risk of them becoming severely ill and reduce chances of spreading the disease. At least 75% of the population needs to be immunized for herd immunity to take effect and allow things to move back toward normal operation. It’s important to note that even after vaccination, it’s possible for individuals to still carry an asymptomatic version of the virus.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
Getting the vaccine does come with some side effects, so it’s important to have a time-off plan in place for employees who may experience them. Common side effects of the COVID vaccine include fever-like symptoms such as:
What is the anticipated timeline of vaccine distribution?
The COVID-19 vaccine is following a phased approach to distribution, with frontline healthcare workers, high-risk individuals and those over 65 getting first priority. It’s likely that the general public will become eligible for the vaccine sometime in the middle of the summer or early fall. When it does come time for workers to get vaccinated ensure all employees, regardless of position, have the same opportunities to do so.
What does the vaccine mean for protocols such as masks and social distancing?
Even after the vaccine, individuals should continue to mask up and follow social distancing measures. According to experts, there is still not enough data to know whether the vaccine will prevent transmission, meaning that while the vaccine may prevent you from getting sick it is still possible to become asymptomatically infected and spread the virus. Additionally, it will take time for everyone to get the vaccine so it’s important to keep following mask and social distancing guidelines in your workplace to further protect employees.
Your Organization & the Vaccine
Most employers are eager for employees to start getting vaccinated, and for good reason. However, some employees feel differently. In fact, a recent poll showed that only 58% of U.S. residents said that they would get vaccinated when the vaccine becomes available. For this reason, it’s important to provide the right resources and encouragement to employees to help them feel comfortable about getting vaccinated when the time comes.
Only 58% of U.S. residents say they will get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Can I mandate the vaccine? Should it be mandatory or voluntary?
According to SHRM, businesses can require that employees get the vaccine so long as they provide reasonable accommodations to do so. Employers in the healthcare, retail and travel industries are likely to receive extra pressure in requiring the vaccine to ensure the safety of their patients and customers. Some may even argue this is a necessity to comply with OSHA’s law of creating a safe work environment.
How should you handle exceptions or accommodations around the vaccine?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are some exceptions when it comes to mandatory vaccinations. These include conflicts of religious beliefs and certain disabilities which could exempt an employee from getting vaccinated. For these exempt employees, businesses can impart increased face covering and social distancing requirements, and even relocate the employee’s workstation to keep others safe. Keep in mind that employees can file disability and religious discrimination claims in certain cases, so it’s important to exercise care and provide the right accommodations.
Some employees can be exempt from the vaccine under certain circumstances. Be sure to plan for these instances to stay in compliance.
How much will the vaccine be and who will handle the cost?
In most cases, the cost of the vaccine is covered by the employee’s insurance. However, in some cases there may be out-of-pocket costs. If you as the employer are planning to require a vaccine, under OSHA you must provide them with the resources necessary to obtain the vaccine to avoid liability- this can include covering the costs associated or reimbursing employees. However, it is still too early to know the exact costs that will be associated once it is rolled out to the general public.
Creating Your Plan
With vaccine roll-outs right around the corner, it’s time to start putting your employee vaccination plan together. Staying up to date on the latest updates and keeping your plan flexible is important to ensure employees can get vaccinated as soon as possible. Stay tuned for part 2 of this 4 part series on best practices for creating your employee vaccination plan and tips for collecting proof of vaccines.
Need help navigating how to develop a proof of vaccination program? Contact us.