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How employers can communicate the facts about COVID-19 vaccines

What should employers communicate about the COVID-19 vaccine right now?

Health and Benefits|Talent
COVID 19 Coronavirus

By Jenny Theirl | February 16, 2021

Employers have a role to play in ending the pandemic by correcting misinformation and encouraging employees to get vaccinated.

As more individuals become eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, some employees are eager to get it while others are hesitant. If you haven’t already, now is the time to come up with a plan to communicate with these populations.

Employers can play a vital role in accelerating acceptance of the vaccine by communicating the facts that are known and by encouraging vaccination. Sending timely and relevant messages demonstrates a commitment to the safety and wellbeing of employees. Communicating frequently and with empathy will build trust with employees while addressing any uncertainty, reluctance and misinformation about the vaccine.

Here’s what you can do now:

Start with the facts

Employers can serve as a source of truth, linking employees to reliable and trustworthy resources by:

  • Communicating fact-based information about vaccine safety, efficacy and cost, with a focus on combatting misinformation (e.g., vaccines were rushed)
  • Reassuring employees that any cost to administer vaccines will be covered by your company’s health plan
  • Providing direct links to state health departments (currently the best source for more information) and continuing to send updates as guidance and availability changes in your area
Be nimble and make it easy

Vaccination is a choice, but you can make it an easier one by providing fact-based information. As you implement policies to encourage vaccination, such as providing paid time-off to get the shots, make it easy for employees to understand and use these programs.

Employers should provide easy-to-understand communication about why, how and where employees can get vaccinated or find more information. Because employees may be in varied settings, use a variety of media:

  • Posters for those on site
  • Emails for those working from home
  • Text messages for those in the field
  • A microsite or app that can be updated regularly with new information
  • A postcard to help employees know where to look for updates

Because the roll out of vaccines differs by municipality, state and also country, provide tools and templates across worksites to enable local teams to send timely communications as vaccine availability changes in their areas.

Encourage vaccination, but don’t mandate it

Many employers are considering whether to require the vaccine to return to work, but announcing a mandate now could backfire. Vaccine hesitancy in some populations remains high and could lead to employees prematurely declining vaccination.

Those who initially don’t want to be vaccinated may be more willing in the coming months, when they see their colleagues, friends and families safely getting vaccinated and more vaccines are available. Furthermore, those who are hesitant may grow less reluctant when there are requirements to show proof of vaccination for various activities.

As vaccines become readily available, encourage vaccination with fact-based education and by using positive language, such as “it’s time for you to get vaccinated,” instead of asking “would you like to get vaccinated?”

Lead by example

Leaders can make a big impact through their actions, which is why there are videos of world leaders receiving vaccines. While these images can be powerful, they won’t convince everyone. Some people may be more receptive to seeing more immediate leaders receiving the vaccine. Encourage leaders to share photographs of being vaccinated so they can share their stories and promote vaccine safety.

Other ways to encourage vaccination include:

  • Sharing personal stories from leaders or other employees about why they chose to be vaccinated
  • Providing “I got vaccinated” stickers — similar to the “I voted” stickers used during an election — to encourage social influencing and demonstrate acceptance of the vaccine
Provide reminders to combat pandemic fatigue

Pandemic fatigue is real, and we all feel it. Continue your current efforts to keep employees safe by providing reminders to:

  • Social distance
  • Wear masks
  • Wash hands
  • Use barriers

These public health measures will remain necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 in the coming months, even as more and more individuals are vaccinated.

Vaccine communication can be complicated, as supplies are limited and there are challenges with distribution and access. Answer the questions you can and provide a direct connection to trusted resources for those you don’t. When more information is available, share what you do know.

By providing timely communication, benefits and access, employers can assist employees in getting vaccinated — an important step toward ending the pandemic.

Author

Associate Director, Talent and Rewards

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