Crain’s Editorial: How Employers Can Aid in Vaccine Race

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Crain’s Detroit Business
April 11, 2021

Michigan, we’re in a race that we’ve got to win.

Our state has become the crossroads of what we hope are the final throes of the coronavirus pandemic. But to get past it, we have to solve two problems: COVID cases that are again raging out of control, and efficiently getting a substantial majority of our people vaccinated.

Employers have not just an incentive, but a responsibility, to aid in this effort. They can play a big role. Encouraging employees to get shots is the bare minimum, and businesses can and should go far beyond that:

  • Large businesses can sign up for programs like the city of Detroit’s that bring vaccinations to employees, just like flu shots. We hope similar programs are created for smaller businesses soon as vaccine supplies become more plentiful.
  • Encourage employees to get vaccinated. But there’s plenty businesses can do beyond that without going to the extreme of requiring vaccination. Some employers have offered bonuses to the vaccinated — sometimes with a bigger bonus once the whole company is vaccinated, as an extra incentive. And some pressure is not unwarranted; some businesses have told employees they’ll be required to get weekly COVID tests if they choose to skip the shot. Avoiding the inconvenience and discomfort of a weekly stick up their noses might be enough to get some employees to brave a shot or two.
  • Communicate clear and accurate information on the vaccine. Overcoming hesitation and unfounded fears is a process that requires consistent messages from trusted sources, and employers and co-workers qualify.
  • Employers also can also help employees with what has been one of the trickiest parts of vaccination so far: Finding an appointment. Training an in-house expert who can help direct employees in finding and signing up for appointments could make a big difference. Navigating the maze of provider websites gets easier and more efficient with practice. Benefits managers already do something similar in helping workers navigate health insurance.

COVID numbers in Michigan right now look dire, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appears to be committed to avoiding the harsh lockdown strategies she applied in previous surges. She’s clearly betting on the vaccines and behavioral exhortations winning the race.

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