February 17, 2021 - 4 min read
Is vaccine hesitancy a barrier to getting back to work?
Examining the possible reasons for employee reluctance and providing guidance for California employers.
Achieving herd immunity is heralded as crucial to stopping the transmission of COVID-19. Despite reassurance that approved vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary to defeat the coronavirus, vaccine hesitancy persists. Findings published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicate that 56% of those surveyed reported they were either somewhat or very likely to be vaccinated.
Understanding vaccine hesitancy
A range of factors drives COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, including political and cultural beliefs, fear of side effects, distrust of the vaccine testing process, and wide distribution of misinformation.
With over 56M COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to-date, only a few cases of severe allergic reactions have been reported, and most were in people with a history of severe allergies.
More typical reactions are mild and have included chills, headaches, arm soreness, and fevers. These are common reactions to any vaccine, resulting from the immune response needed to give protection, and resolve within a few hours or a few days.
Public health officials continue to build awareness of vaccine safety and efficacy in an effort to combat vaccine hesitancy.
Vaccine confidence is expected to improve as longer-term findings are released and more groups are studied, such as children, pregnant women, and those with certain illnesses. Groups, including those with weakened immune systems, are especially concerned with how their medications may interfere with the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers group-specific considerations for those with underlying medical conditions.
In all cases, any risk from getting the vaccine needs to be weighed against the risk of getting infected. When considering the information available so far, the risk of having a severe reaction to the vaccine is small compared to the risk of getting infected.
Guidance for employers
As vaccine distribution and eligibility expands, employers are facing the possibility of vaccine-skeptical employees. With misinformation related to COVID-19 vaccines widely available, employers are encouraged to take a proactive role in reassuring their employee base by:
Maintaining consistent communication – Regular communication can encourage an open dialogue with employees, boost morale, and help manage misinformation.
Sharing credible information & resources – Stay current on developments and share helpful resources with employees such as our COVID member website, the California COVID website, and CDC COVID resources.
Enforcing workplace rules – Guidance for employees that have already returned to work should be readily available and closely enforced. The CDC updates their return to work considerations and we regularly update our employer and broker resource center.
The sooner herd immunity is achieved, the sooner we can all return to workplaces and other regular routines. Widely administered vaccinations offer the most efficient path to herd immunity while protecting our friends, family members, and community members.
In the meantime, employers and employees should continue adhering to public safety measures such as closely monitoring health, social distancing in shared spaces, and avoiding shared equipment.
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