What Businesses Need to Know About Vaccines Before Returning to the Office

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With the announcement of the State of Michigan’s Vacc to Normal plan, businesses in all sectors will be able to resume in-person work 14 days after reaching 55% of residents vaccinated. That means 4,453,304 residents will have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As that milestone quickly approaches, employers planning to bring employees back to the office should use this time to develop a return-to-office strategy. A key component of this return will be education and engagement regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

In order to bring this pandemic to an end and create safe and healthy workplaces for employees to return to, it is crucial for business leaders to encourage their teams to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Educate Employees

Business leaders will play a key role in building vaccine confidence among employees, and the more members of the workforce that are vaccinated, the more certain an employer can be that their place of business will remain safe and open. Employers can help by consistently sharing fact-based information about the vaccines and their proven safety and effectiveness, and connecting employees with further details on how to get a vaccine. It is especially important to reinforce:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are effective: Based on evidence from large clinical trials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were each roughly 95% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people who received two doses. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is effective after only one dose and is 85% effective at preventing moderate to severe illness and is at least 66% effective in controlling symptoms altogether. In clinical trials, all three vaccines were nearly 100% effective at preventing death and are highly effective at preventing severe illness from COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe: The COVID-19 vaccines have met the same FDA standards for safety and effectiveness as all other vaccines. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines never enter the nucleus of cells where DNA is kept. The vaccines cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way and will not give you COVID-19.
  • Side effects are possible, though short-lived: Some people may experience mild side effects, which is a normal sign that your body is building protection. The side effects of a COVID-19 vaccination could affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. Your arm may be sore, red, or warm to the touch. You may experience a low-grade fever, chills, headache, and just a general feeling of “not yourself.”
  • There is no cost: The federal government pays for the vaccine itself. Some vaccination providers may charge administration fees, but insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid usually pay these fees.

Identify Company Needs

While planning a return to the office, employers must consider if they will mandate, incentivize, or implement a minimum vaccination requirement for the workplace. While businesses can make vaccines mandatory to return to work, it is advised that they transparently explain this requirement to employees and ensure it makes sense for the business’ functions and/or services. It is also important to note that employees are able to request exemptions for medical and religious or faith-based exemptions to a mandate. It is best to work with your business’ legal counsel before implementing a vaccine mandate for employees.

Businesses may also offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated including bonuses, gift cards, time off, lunches, and the like. Further, establishing clear parameters for vaccine adoption – a milestone or minimum requirement – may also encourage employees to get vaccinated. Surveys to determine interest and audits of a business’ makeup can also help inform a workplace vaccination strategy – whether through a mandatory vaccination program, on-site clinic, etc.

Whatever method your business chooses to implement should be clearly communicated to team members and regularly updated.

Support Vaccine Logistics

Beyond educating employees about the benefits of vaccines and sharing resources for how to get one, coordinating logistics for employees will make the vaccination process more appealing and accessible. This could include:

  • Maintaining and sharing a list of available vaccine clinics
  • Offering flexible work hours and/or additional paid time off to accommodate appointments and recovery
  • Providing transportation options by coordinating with local public transportation providers or ride-sharing services to help employees get to and from appointments
  • Hosting an on-site vaccine clinic

Businesses should stay in close contact with local health departments for more information and resources for their workplaces.

Additional Resources


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