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What is companies’ role in ensuring workers get vaccinated?

The world has not yet rounded a corner, but the corner is, at least, within sight. In the past two weeks data from late-stage trials of three different vaccines, developed by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, have shown spectacular results. An end to the pandemic could well be approaching. As soon as the news came out, managers began considering the implications. “I have been getting questions already from clients,” says Deena Merlen, an employment lawyer at Reavis Page Jump, a law firm in New York. Companies, she says, are asking: “Can we require it? Should we require it? What if people don’t want a shot? Just as we are able to require that people wear masks, isn’t it the same thing?”


It is in the interests of companies and their employees to get back to business quickly. So what can companies do to encourage and maximise take-up?

  • Make it easy for workers to get a shot. For firms that don’t offer vaccination on site, offering paid time off to go get a shot is a simple solution. Offering to pay taxi fares is an added bonus.

  • Inconvenience plays a bigger role than misinformation in explaining why people don’t get vaccinated, according to Melinda Mills, an Oxford sociologist who conducted a rapid review of the behavioural aspects of vaccine uptake and misinformation for the Royal Society and the British Academy. “When you want your employees to do something, you have to provide them with the lowest possible hurdle to do it,” she says. That means taking into account the costs (in both time and money) of taking time off work, and minimising them.

  • Firms should start preparing now, by deciding which department will be responsible for vaccination. “It could fall under risk management, or it could fall under HR as part of the on-boarding process,” says Amber Clayton, director of the HR Knowledge Centre at the Society for Human Resource Management. She cites her own example: “I used to work in the health-care field, and I was responsible for ensuring that we received tuberculosis information for new hires.”

Read the full article in The Economist here