The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, but a return to normal won’t be achieved until the vaccines are widely distributed. In December, the Pew Research Center reported that 39% of Americans surveyed said they definitely or probably would not take a vaccine, though later studies have shown attitudes toward the vaccines are improving.
A recent piece by Ernst & Young suggests employers play an important role in overcoming vaccine hesitancy, considering the pandemic’s impact on the workforce and disproportionate effect on at-risk populations and communities of color. Here’s how employers can take action:
Seek to understand
Listen and conduct surveys to better understand employees’ “baseline” beliefs on vaccination. That information can be used to tailor education and engagement with the help of existing public health materials. Continue to conduct surveys over time to measure change in attitudes.
EY suggests taking time to learn more about the cultural beliefs that may dissuade employees from getting vaccinated.
Take a local approach
With varying beliefs based on region – or even by neighborhood – “understanding local context and nuances” is crucial, EY says. Data-driven and personalized communication can be an effective tool for getting the word out.
Present the most up-to-date information on vaccination – goals, safety and benefits – while being transparent about challenges and other concerns as they come up. “Messaging will need to be agile to respond to changing conditions and should be delivered with nuanced and culturally sensitive messaging for greatest impact,” according to EY.
Leverage your diversity, equity and inclusion professionals to effectively reach all demographics within the employee base. Make it a priority to address vaccine hesitancy issues among employees who identify racially as members of vulnerable populations.
Break down barriers
Your workforce should not have to choose between getting paid and getting vaccinated. EY recommends companies create policies that protect wages and provide excused time off for vaccination. Keep in mind and help employees overcome various home-life challenges, such as childcare, that could prevent them from showing up to receive the first or second dose of vaccine.