As an employer or health plan sponsor, you might be wondering what, if anything, you should tell your people about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Here are some ideas to get you started.
In your communications, emphasize the benefits of receiving a vaccine. Speak to the safety and efficacy of the available vaccines. Let your people know that the vaccines have been clinically evaluated and tested, and that they have met the FDA’s statutory criteria for emergency use authorization. Stress that getting vaccinated outweighs the alternative of becoming ill and succumbing to
COVID-19, which is a serious, life-threatening disease.
There’s very little information being disseminated in Spanish or other non-English languages about COVID-19 vaccines. If you have employees and their family members who are not proficient in English, consider reaching out to them in their primary language. If you need help disseminating information, visit the CDC. You’ll find messaging and materials that will help you craft your communications in different languages.
Your people may have questions about the vaccines and where they can get their shots. Steering them to resources that identify when and where they can get vaccinated will be invaluable. Some of our clients have posted information and resources on their websites. Here are a few examples:
Right now, state and local public health departments will likely be the best source of information about where and when to obtain the vaccine, so consider providing one or more of the following:
Effective May 1, the federal government will launch a national vaccine website to eliminate the time-consuming search process.
Before you decide what to say, consider your demographics. Recognize that there may be differing views on getting vaccinated based on varying degrees of trust in the government and vaccine manufacturers. Also take into consideration that some of your people may be more wary of getting vaccinated than others. Disinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines—from news outlets, politicians, and social media—may fuel distrust of doctors and health institutions. It’s important to acknowledge these challenges head on in your communications.
Ask leadership, business unit leaders, managers, and others to encourage folks to get vaccinated and to talk openly about their experiences in getting vaccinated. For example, a letter to members of the UFCW Local 888 Health Fund includes quotes from union leaders about why getting vaccinated is important to them. It also harnesses the power of “people like me” to use peers and social conformity to influence behavior. As humans, we’re very interested in what others are doing. We tend to follow group norms. If you can send a signal to your folks that people like them are getting vaccinated, it may help them feel more comfortable and encourage them to do the same.
UFCW Local 888 COVID-19 vaccine letter
Some organizations are allowing employees to take paid time off during the workday to get a vaccination. Consider offering a number of hours off to hourly employees for days when they want to get vaccinated and flexible hours to salaried employees. A paid-time-off approach could alleviate any concerns your employees have about finding time to schedule a vaccination appointment and state loudly and clearly that you support their efforts to do so.
A concern for employers is that an employee’s failure to be vaccinated could constitute a direct threat to other employees in the workplace. If you decide to require that your people be vaccinated before allowing them to return to your worksite, be aware that exceptions must be made for employees with disabilities, certain health conditions, or those who have concerns based on religious beliefs. Check with legal counsel on these issues before implementing a mandate.
Studies continue to show that employers are trusted sources of information. Communicate frequently to keep people informed of your current policies, and let them know you’re available to talk about any concerns they may have and that you’ll be in touch as the situation evolves.
Promoting vaccines can feel daunting, but we hope these tips help you get the right message out and encourage your people to get the vaccine.
We're proud to work with organizations that value their people. If you want to learn more, we’d love to talk.
Elena Charleston, Senior Communications Consultant, has 30 years of experience producing successful communications for multiemployer and corporate clients.